Why Dave Sim Is Wrong About His Next Comic Book


Dave Sim has been releasing his latest update, as he struggles with internet access. In which he tells us the funeral home that he has arranged his death rites at, is closing, so it will be moved to Westmount Memorial Celebration Centre. It rather sets the tone…

Worth noting (perhaps): I've specified that my remains are to be kept in cold storage for a week before the funeral to allow interested parties to drive in from out of town if they're so inclined.

That's right, folks, Dave Sim's corpse will be on ice. He also talked about his upcoming project first seen in the pages of glamourpuss, an examination of what Sim sees as the suspicious death of cartoonist Alex Raymond,  told using a photorealistic style inspired by Raymond's work. I thoroughly enjoyed what I read so far. But Dave is rather worried.

This might be a good place to mention that IDW has a lot more confidence in STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND than I do as a commercial property — which is kind of an odd reverse of the usual author/publisher relationship. MY take is that we can sell maybe 100 copies in an Artist's Edition if I have enough time to actually construct a market that size through Heritage Auctions (building on the "glamourpuss original art auctions" that Dave Fisher and I are still in the early days of starting to construct).

People who are interested in my photorealism art are a mere handful of people, a pimple on the butt of the CEREBUS audience (which itself isn't huge these days), as I see it. Brian Hibbs' observation on how many copies of Dave Sim's new project he's going to order (when I was working on JUDENHASS and hadn't announced it). "Depends on if it's CEREBUS: THE HA-HA YEARS". Which is, I think, a good way of putting it. This , as far as the market is concerned, is all Dave Sim is good for.

And THAT only potentially.

It BETTER be. HA. HA. If it's not? Kill it.

Anyway: lesson learned. Go through Heritage Auctions and find people who buy the ACTUAL photorealists, send them a preview/catalogue of the glamourpuss art auction material and try to engage them there — with the fashion stuff AND pages that won't be used in STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND. Complete firewall, of course. I don't know who they are, but Heritage contacts them directly.

THEN! THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND PREVIEW ROUGH CUT ARTISTS EDITION. Same firewall group. Send them print-outs of a bunch of the pages in advance of the auction. No one else — except IDW and Eddie Khanna — has seen or will see the work at that point. That is, the initial print run of Book One would be 100 signed and numbered copies (with tipped in bookplate, tracing paper preliminary signed and personalized — maybe photorealism drawing of the purchaser or spouse on #'s 1 to 5, the whole nine yards) and they would be auctioned and IDW and I would split the proceeds.

THAT I have confidence would bring in enough revenue to make doing the book worthwhile after deducting the cost of the 100 copies.

And then IDW is welcome to try to market (how do I put this delicately?) DAVE SIM'S NOT-CEREBUS THE-HA-HA-YEARS CRAP PROJECT to the stores. I think that's the only realistic expectation. I mean, come on, only Rich Johnston even TALKS about Dave Sim (and thanks, Rich, but…you know, it is what it is, right?). That isn't going to change, I don't think. The needle on that dial isn't going to budge. The same force that sold 10,000 copies of JUDENHASS and then dropped to Absolute Zero and has stayed there ever since will, I'm pretty sure (not seeing any variable in the equation) do that to Book One of THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND. I'm fine with that. If you can do a book for 26 years and have the last 10 years of it completely ignored, trust me, you're fine with anything.

Let me say that I deeply appreciate IDW's confidence in me and SDOAR. All I'm saying is that I don't want them to take a Major Bath between what they THINK the book should do and what the book is GOING to do. My way, they'll at least make a few dollars off the 100 copies and I'll make a few dollars off the 100 copies (and, I'm pretty sure, auctioning ALL of the artwork before the market kills the book BANG DEAD — so right after the 100 copies have been auctioned) and then we can be 100% realistic about Book Two and Book Three and Book Four, etc.

We'll have a fallback position.

"Right. We can sell 100 copies of this book through Heritage Auctions and that's the ONLY place we can sell it." And we just DO that. No hand-wringing. No "Oh Why Oh Why Didn't This Wonderful Piece of Work Sell Better?" Uh, three guesses and the first two don't count.

Or we can sell another 400 copies or 1,000 copies.

I'm just REALLY concerned about Ted's ambition to get this book on the New York Times Bestseller List. That's a LOT of coin to lose betting that a 100% CLOSED-minded society is a remotely OPEN-minded society. Don't get me wrong, Ted is more than welcome to lose as much of his money as he wants — and he's pretty adamant that it's his money and that he plans to back SDOAR to the hilt. Personally, I'll just be more comfortable when Bleeding Cool is the only site that even mentions it and it tanks completely if we have that fallback position. We can sell 100 of these to major marginalized art buyers.

Here's the thing. The Strange Death of Alex Raymond is a wonderful comic about comics, comic strips, cartoonists and opening a cold case, alleging foul play in the supposed accidental death of the superstar cartoonist of his day. It is a newsworthy comic that is experimental in its storytelling, rewarding in its experience and has a story in its construction of one master of the form learning to draw like another master of his form in order to tell his story.


It was just that it was cut up and hidden within the pages of glamourpuss when initially released, a parody of fashion magazines from a man who few people wanted to hear that from.

But The Strange Case Of Alex Raymond has the potential to be Dave Sim's From Hell. Ted Adams of IDW can see this. I can too. And New York Times bestseller lists, especially for graphic novels, are not that hard to get to the to of with the right project. And this is the right project.

Dave Sim might realise this too eventually, but only after publication. I just hope his negativity doesn't harm the project in any way.



Because that really would be a car crash…

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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