Friday, 14 November 2014

Weekly Update #57: Cement, Tar & Dimpleboard

Hello, everyone!

1.  Off-White House foundation rebuild "caps out" at 48 bags of cement.  Tar and "dimpleboard" have been added and as of today Nov 14, the trenches flanking the two sides of the house have been filled in.

2.  Inventory list arrives from Leamington warehouse. Inventory ranges from 1 copy of CHURCH & STATE BI-WEEKLY (reprinting issue 61) to 4,068 copies of CEREBUS No.202.  CEREBUS ARCHIVE FIRST RELEASE program contemplated.

3.  Three most recent signatories to the "I Don't Believe Dave Sim Is A Misogynist" petition (ipetitions) have arrived on sequential weeks. At the rate of one a week we should reach the target of 2,000 names (which would allow me, comfortably, to go out in public) sometime in 2034 when I'll be 78 years old.

4.  John Funk plans to develop an overview template of the progress of CEREBUS ARCHIVE NUMBER TWO through the printing and shipping phases and to do a weekly update of his own at Kickstarter so everyone can see what progress is being made.

1.  It was a bit of a race with the cold weather bearing down on us and the last couple of days have been very cold and very wet which, according to Scott, is the worst weather for "tamping" the dirt. It's basically wet clay and doesn't transfer easily and doesn't tamp effectively.  But, there is no question that the job is a solid one and the Off-White House is now good for at least another 100 years.  Scott just needs to add three feet of gravel as a base for the interlocking stonework (to be done in the spring) and that will do it for Off-White House Renovations 2014.

There is a necessary balance: part of me wants to conserve scarce resources and just leave the place as it is but part of the deal with Scott is that we jointly improve the two properties -- in his case so he can get "high end" tenants and in my case to try to be a good custodian of a Heritage Property here in town. And, of course, to maintain the neighbourhood which is always going to be a problem with "downtown" properties.

So I basically have the winter to come up with the "most bang for the limited buck" on the exteriors.  I think we're going about it the right way: lunch bucket structural solidity first with the raw materials we have so there's a severely limited amount of "sub-contracting" going on when it comes time to "prettify" both places.

At the same time, there's a level of expertise needed there.  I can design two exteriors (and have done so) but I'm not an expert on 19th century German architecture and what limits can or should apply.  And experts don't come cheap.  One of the reasons that we're all hopeful that the Kickstarter Model continues to be viable.  None of these things can be "costed out" ahead of time.  We have to go through them when we go through them.  The plan that Scott and I have is to work in increments that we can afford, which will be part of the "costing out" of the completion of the exteriors:  how much we do and how quickly.  My concern is that the Kickstarter Model might start eroding quickly at some point and I don't want to be overextended if/when it does -- because there really isn't a Plan B.

And, also, time is at a premium.  It would be great to spend all day, hours and hours, meeting with people and looking at computer simulations, etc. But this is really a small, small, small part of what I need to be doing over the next few years as my stamina erodes and my custodial duties to the intellectual property and physical property multiply.

2.  The warehouse in Leamington has basically sketched in the inventory situation for me, breaking down the quantities into how many cartons there are of back issues.  Which is the first step in the transportation problem:  how many cartons?

To cite one example: CEREBUS No.248 there are 779 copies.  With THIS list, Sharon and Julie have indicated that that consists of three cartons.  Two cartoons of 320 copies each and then 139 in a third carton.  From the Kickstarter One experience, back in 2012, I know that a lot of those copies are a write-off because they were jammed in very tightly, so the top and bottom (20? 30? 40? depends on the box) are buckled and warped and unmarketable.  I'm not sure if that condition worsens over the years -- that is, the longer they sit there the more of them get warped.

But, the bottom line, as I see it is that this is going to be a very labour-intensive process, whatever I end up doing with them.  SOMEONE -- not me -- is going to have to go through and do a cursory scan of each box.  I don't think it makes sense to do a microscopic examination looking for 9.8s or higher, let's say.  But I could offer a persuasive argument countering that:  ALL you want is 9.8s or higher and anything else is just "Recycle City".  That cuts across two "CEREBUS Constitutencies":  the "the value of the comics is as reading material" people and the "the value of the comics is the potential CGC grade" people.

The question for the former group would be: okay, how many potential readers do you see for 779 copies of CEREBUS No.248?  Let's say that 200 of those are rated completely uncollectible.  What do you do with the 200?  Give them to a charity?  What is a charity going to do with 200 copies of the same issue of the same comic book?  Ship them overseas for ESL students?  Shipping is the biggest cost in just about anything these days even with oil at $78 a barrel and dropping.

Conversely, if you DO stick strictly to 9.8 or higher (and there you're talking about someone with that ability volunteering to go through these tens of thousands of books OR someone who can do a preliminary skim:  these LOOK perfect -- and then have someone else go through them who knows a 9.8 from a 9.2:  I know I don't have that skill).

The LONG TERM value, as I see it, is if you can get the inventory down to 9.8 or higher and I can sign them and get them bagged and boarded and INSIDE the bag put a colour postcard showing the book and how it is signed (I'd obviously sign all of them the same way, in the same spot with the same pen and possibly CAFR -- Cerebus Archive First Release -- written under the signature) and then emboss the card with the CEREBUS ARCHIVE FIRST RELEASE embosser.

Well, then you've got something.

I'm not sure WHAT you've got -- not much of anything in 2014 -- but after I'm dead and there are only so many CAFR copies on the market -- even 2,000 -- that seems at least potentially a fund-raiser for The Cerebus Trust.

(Being "backstage" at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge back in 2007 was an education in that regard:  Rockwell spent most of his final years signing material for the Museum, which is now able, in many cases, to trade signed prints for original paintings that would otherwise be out of range for them.  And, of course, the supply of signed prints is fixed and dropping year by year. What would have seemed like an exorbitant number when Rockwell was alive doesn't seem so exorbitant this many decades later)

I'm hoping to experiment with it on the next CEREBUS ARCHIVE Kickstarter, offering the rarest CAFR copies.  Just skimming the list: there are 46 copies of No.152, 21 copies of No.167,  13 copies of No.115, 8 copies of No.125, 11 CHURCH & STATE BI-WEEKLY reprinting No.63, 22 CHURCH & STATE BI-WEEKLY reprinting No.51.  I might not do all of those issues -- they all need to be bagged and boarded and time is at a premium.  But it seems sensible to start with the smallest quantities and build from there. 

3.  Many thanks to Margaret Liss for mailing me a complete printout of the first 570 names on the "I Don't Believe Dave Sim Is a Misogynist" petition. (now 572!) She says in her letter dated October 26:
Every month or so, I'll swing by the petition and check for "spammers" and vandalism.  There used to be more idiots at first, but their numbers have decreased as the years go on. The most I have to clean up is the occasional no first or last name.  I used to be able to send people an e-mail -- as leaving one's e-mail was one of the required inputs -- but ipetitions has gotten rid of that. 
I also noticed that ipetitions no longer lets you access the full list of names (unless that's just my Luddite ineptness at work :)).

But, again, MANY thanks to Margaret who has shepherded this thing for a number of years now and for devoting hours of her leisure time to getting me the complete list.  All of this voluntary stuff is strictly at your own pace.  I haven't talked to anyone in the last few years who ISN'T swamped with just keeping up with basic life stuff, so MANY thanks to everyone who continues to volunteer to help us with all this.

Anyway, I was very gratified to see that Gary Spencer Millidge HAD signed the petition -- and relatively early, too:  #117 in June of 2008!  If you recall, it was getting a copy of MEANWHILE in the mail from him that provoked the question.

This actually ties in with the letter I just got from Eddie Khanna with more GREAT STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND research material.  Eddie says, tongue-in-cheek, that there might be a place in hell for comic fans who bury graphic novelists in research material and who make those graphic novelists therefore have to continue working for years and years and years even AFTER those graphic novelists have already done the world's longest graphic novel.

I look at it this way:  there's no place for me in a society where it is taken as a given that if you aren't a feminist you're a misogynist.  So, not being able to go out in public and with no sign of getting any more "traction" than one signature a week for the next twenty years... might be a simple math problem:  Maybe it will take me as long to finish THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND as it takes to get to 2,000 signatures on the petition.  There might be a sudden surge in signatories and we get there in ten years or twelve years -- and meanwhile THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND just gets longer and longer and longer.  Or we could get there by some unforeseen means in five years or eight years or ten years.  My cheque from IDW for the latest ten pages came in alongside Eddie's letter.  Which seemed an auspicious juxtaposition.

Even though it feels as if I haven't been to the drawing board in the last five weeks with all of the mounds of unrelated work that have to be dealt with, I'm still on pages 8 and 9 of the latest 10-page batch.  Which isn't THAT far off of the five week average for doing those 10 pages. 

4.  Gratified that John Funk plans to start posting a weekly update to the Kickstarter site, starting, as he put it, "at 10,000 ft." with a projection of the targets he's hoping to hit with CANT fulfillment.

That turned out to be one of those really basic structural things.  Obviously, I wasn't looking forward to doing batches of head sketches and signing stacks of prints and hand-lettering stacks of bookplates, so the longer they didn't turn up, the -- secretly -- happier I was: slaving away on THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND.  But, that tends to lead toward bad customer service.  So, having gone through that with CANO, it was a learning experience, best summed up as: "Don't tell ME, tell THEM" -- that is, all of you pledge partners.  HERE's when you can expect to see your CANT pledge items and, week by week, how John plans to get there.  And then explaining on a weekly basis when and how he met the target or missed it.  And blaming me if I'm the one holding things up  :)

Like the "the next bus is due" clocks in the GRT bus shelters.  Even if it's not 100% accurate, it's better than spending twenty minutes wondering if you missed it.

The only related CANO/CANT news is that Diamond HAS received all of the unsigned copies of CANO that they ordered.  At least for the time being, we'll be doing a full page ad in PREVIEWS for each folio, even though it eats up a substantial amount of the profit (putting it over in the direction of glamourpuss-style cash flow territory:  you can't really spend $3,000 printing and shipping a comic book that only generates $3,500 in revenue -- well you can, but your cash isn't going to be there when you need it).  It's less of a revenue stream and more of a "retailer/fan service":  they're always available if you end up missing one of them.

That should be true for the next six months, at least, with Diamond's generous over-order on CANO, but it is something that I will be monitoring on an on-going basis, since we still haven't settled what minimum quantity of folios John would need to have an order for before it would make sense for him to produce them.  Ballpark, he thought, 20 copies.  Which I think should be "do-able" for Diamond.

We'll see when we get there.

See you all next week!    


Jake said...

I always forget Dave is going to blog on Fridays...and then I remember, and it's always a great read.

Jeff Seiler said...

Oh, I know, Jake! I remember in the early days, post-Cerebus, back when Dave had "nothing to do but read and answer the mail", he and I exchanged hand-written letters regularly. Given the turnaround in the mails between Canada and the US, and the time it took to read and write the letters, it always took right around 2 weeks.

It was always a surprise to see a new Dave Sim letter in the mail for the longest time, but eventually my subconscious clock caught on and then it was like,"hmm, now where's that letter?"

Nowadays, he still responds quickly, but I'm gettig fat and lazy, so it's more like months between letters. But. . .every now and then, I get a surprise letter or package. So, I still get that short, little joyous moment of discovery upon opening the mailbox every now and then!

Travis Pelkie said...

So on this NPR radio trivia show, Ask Me Another, the Nov. 13 ep features Neil Gaiman at the NYC Comic Con, I guess. Anyway, the "Something Borrowed" segment features words borrowed from other languages, and one answer is "aardvark", and one of the hosts mentions Cerebus as a clue they could have given.

Yeah, it's not that interesting, but here's the site:

M Kitchen said...

Regarding point 2. Definitely find a way to release those sub 9.8-2 issues into the wild.

Better option than recycling.

Steve said...

I've been watching Cerebus auctions on eBay for years. There's currently over 3700 auctions running; last week an auction for a full run of #50 to 300 sold, closing out at $51. 250 consecutive issues for $51.

There may be a market (small, obviously) for, say, signed 'Dave Sim Archive' issues - but at what expense of time and hassle?

It's unlikely a CGC Signature Series Dave Sim Archive 9.8 #248 (or any other similar issue) would sell for more than what CGC will charge for grading / slabbing the issue - and even then you're not guaranteed the 9.8 grade.

I believe the overwhelming majority of storage stock has no market and, no matter what Dave does to make these bulk issues marketable, the return won't be worth the effort.

Now, that's not to say I like this, but rather just my observation from years of watching Cerebus auctions.