Previously on 'A Moment Of Cerebus':
Dave Sim, working with George Peter Gatsis, has remastered the first two collected volumes of Cerebus to restore details and quality in the artwork lost over the thirty years since they were originally published (as detailed here and here). After Cerebus' original printer Preney Print closed its doors, Dave Sim moved his printing to Lebonfon in 2007 as at that time they were still capable of working with photographic negatives and making printing plates as Preney had done. And then Lebonfon switched to digital scanning and printing - a technology which struggles to faithfully reproduce Cerebus' tone without creating moire patterns (as detailed in Crisis On Infinite Pixels). Dave Sim continues to work with Lebonfon to ensure the print-quality of the new Cerebus and High Society editions (as detailed in Collections Stalled). Now read on...
|Cerebus Vol 1 & Cerebus Vol 2: High Society|
Cover art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
Okay, well, I've been here reading all of the comments on the last WEEKLY UPDATE and the MID-WEEK UPDATE. Which has taken about an hour (and answering them has taken another hour). Let me try to cover some of the broad strokes:
1) Getting Wilf involved. My own view is that engaging legal counsel just means that whatever is going to happen just became 5-figures-more expensive for the folks in question. And this would be a REALLY complicated legal case. Picture Sean Michael Robinson and George Gatsis briefing Wilf on the foundational questions of the reproduction involved. And both disagreeing with each other. Wilf would have to figure out what the "narrative" was -- how a judge and/or jury would read it -- and then find the shortest way to explain it. It would be a lunatic number of billable hours for the phone chats just to that point. Then the billable hours while he actually explains all this in a court of law. Then the lawyer he was facing going over the same hair-splitting. 5 figures would be a conservative estimate. I would say "mid- 6 figures", not including travel expenses.
So there's no sense, to me, in going that route. Or asking for legal advice, period. Unless I was asking the future judge and getting a definitive answer on the merits, all I'd really be getting would be "double down on Red 35" -- that is, a gut instinct call on a complete gamble. I'm not in the situation of gambling on 6-figure amounts and I assume Lebonfon isn't either.
2) I'm in the unfortunate situation of being both bystander and arbiter in this situation. I don't know if Sean Michael Robinson is right or George Gatsis is right. And, in a sense, I really need to decide. My best suggestion would be that Sean and George continue to discuss it and that, possibly, Sean should get a look at some of the digital files in question. I do tend to agree: "Everything looks good on television". And that a digital file that looks bad "on TV" CAN BE exactly what the printing press is looking for. Sandeep did the grayscale to bitmap conversion on glamourpuss and it's the best reproduction of my work I've ever seen. But, that's a different situation (possibly) because that was pure artwork-to-digital whereas what George has been doing is restoration. So as to whether that's the case here, the odds seem to me to be better of Sean and George coming to a definitive answer on that between them. I'm way out of my area of expertise.
3) I can definitely AFFORD, financially, a new fax machine. I bought mine at the same time Sandeep bought his and it was only $45 or $50 as I recall. So thanks to those who want to buy me one, but IF I decide to get one I'll know exactly what I'm looking for (e.g. colour copying I need for various things these days, space restrictions etc). What I've been doing since it stopped receiving faxes (and its quite choosy about which fax numbers I can fax out to, and changes its mind on that quite regularly: some days I can fax Patrick and some days I can't) I'm assessing it on the merits:
Can I afford one in terms of the amount of time I spend running upstairs to see if a fax has come in?
It's been an unexpected benefit: I hadn't realized how much time I spent doing that. Right now, is there any reason that I should be hearing from people by fax? I'm writing and drawing THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND and that's really ALL I should be doing for the next three or four years (Which reminds me: Tim! You need to change the dates on STRANGE DEATH on the home page -- 2017 or 2018 at the EARLIEST and probably later -- I'm working on page 18 of issue 4). That's what I'm doing for a living and then other things to bring money in.
These Updates are really all that I can justify right now when it comes to CEREBUS. Basically dropping by the "lab". "Come up with anything yet? No?" Okay, back to STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND.
4) I think I'm safe in saying that there is no QUICK FIX to the CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY situation. We're all waiting to hear from Monsieur Auberge from LEBONFON or someone authorized to speak for him here in this stakeholders' forum. Depending on what he -- or his agent -- says, then we can move on to the next part of the discussion. It could take the rest of 2014 and possibly into 2015. Complicated discussions are like that. I've got two or three different directions I CAN go, based on what happens next. And then -- if experience is any teacher -- two or three different directions once whatever has happened next has happened.
5) My best advice for CEREBUS fans who want to help is -- if you are missing copies of the trades PAST CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY or if you've got a "read-to-pieces" copy you've been meaning to replace, ask your Local Comic Shop to order it for you. This will primarily benefit Diamond, but then they are arguably the biggest stakeholder in this situation so anything that helps to bring in some CEREBUS money to them is all to the good. Likewise buying a used copy on Amazon or ebay. My 21st century sense is that anywhere your book sells counts in your favour. That even extending to illegal downloads. It's our present 21st century reality so I assume it's there for a good reason, or good reasons, whatever those may be.
6) Prestige editions of the books. Not going to happen in the foreseeable future. The more formats you have the books in, the more problems you have getting them into print and keeping them in print. The more you confuse your customers. "Oh, a prestige version of READS -- now I can sell all my trades and just buy the prestige versions". "Oh, I'm going to buy the IDW versions". It's always worth repeating: 6,000 pages is unprecedented. A solution that works for 1,200 pages isn't going to work for 6,000 pages.
Some specific replies:
Anonymous: on the auction of CEREBUS original artwork. That's low on the list for me personally. I'm pretty intent on preserving the CEREBUS ARCHIVE including as much of the artwork as possible. Selling the artwork works against that plan. You would see the glamourpuss artwork on sale before you would see CEREBUS pages.
Paul Slade. Hi, Paul. I don't want to "overdo" the relationship with IDW and I think they recognize that they need to be cautious until they see what sort of market they have for CEREBUS material. The HIGH SOCIETY AUDIO DIGITAL package will be the first test of that. It wouldn't make sense for them to commit to a half-dozen CEREBUS projects until they see what (if anything) those projects are likely to do. I think they've opted for giving me optimum STRANGE DEATH creation time over, say, getting me to write the commentary for the CEREBUS COVERS books. Which would be my preference as well.
Keith -- "accept the flaws and move forward". Thanks for your input. There is a real case to be made that most of the audience just wants to read the books and don't much care about the reproduction. I do want to make sure everyone knows that I'm not trying to "put one over on them" by "foisting" substandard printing on them. It's definitely a long process to find out where the "sweet spot" is.
Anonymous - printing in China. IDW has volunteered to put me in touch with their printer in South Korea. If possible, I'd like to keep printing CEREBUS in Canada since it's always been printed in Canada. If it takes some time to figure out how to do that, I don't want to make the decision to go offshore just because I was impatient.
Damian T: "Can Dave afford to live without revenue from these two books?" Two years ago, I would have said "no" but -- so far -- the answer has been "yes". It's been very liberating to know that it's not a matter of "Without CEREBUS, I'm NOTHING!"
Anonymous: 1100 head sketches is a LOT of head sketches, even if they're really quick and bad. And it would require either me flying up to Val d'Or and doing 1100 head sketches on the unbound covers or having 1100 covers shipped down here. Since Kickstarter, I've been pretty determined not to turn my home and offices into a loading dock again.
Dave Kopperman - "Vendors don't want your business". I definitely have to take that into account as a distinct possibility. It's one of the reasons that I solicited retailer feedback. If no retailer wants to provide feedback, then that makes the process somewhat easier: a) the CEREBUS fans and readers and collectors and b) Diamond and Lebonfon will help me decide the appropriate way forward.
Jeff Seiler - re: "ordering in quantities that reflect what customers want". Yes, definitely. The question is "Does CEREBUS and HIGH SOCIETY being off the market this long mean that there is no further demand, that we have entered the 'World Without Cerebus' context and whatever that entails in the long term?" We aren't going to know that for a while, unfortunately.
The Kickstarter campaign I talked about last time - saying I would know in the next two weeks or so -- is definitely "no go" at this point which I'm very happy about because there are still about a dozen things I want to have figured out before even attempting another Kickstarter campaign.
Thanks to everyone for participating here.
We'll see what the next week brings!
Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond'
by making a monthly donation at Patreon or a one-off Paypal donation.
by making a monthly donation at Patreon or a one-off Paypal donation.
Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics and specifically focuses on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette at the age of 46.