CEREBUS TV CROSSOVER! “The Kitchen Family Players” sneak preview meets THE LAST SIGNING coverage as Mike (SPY GUY) Kitchen, Blair (THE POSSUM) Kitchen, their wives and seven (count ‘em) seven children drivefrom Southern Ontario to Halifax, Nova Scotia for Dave Sim’s THE LAST SIGNING. A lead-in to a LOST BUT NOW FOUND CEREBUS TV EPISODE from July 2010, “Head Sketches R Us” CEREBUS AS BLAIR KITCHEN’s THE POSSUM with guest appearance of all-the-crazy-stuff Indy mini-comics genius Ralph Kidson sends from England. And what was up with Alex Raymond and all the photos of him with pretty young models?
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“Now I’ll Ask You One” with Dave Sim and The Kitchen Bros. Part 6 – Talking Diamond comics rejection letters and what to do about it.
Mike: Regarding movies and movie reviews; very interesting. It made me think of Jimmy Gownley’s question to you about enjoying comics after making them for all these years, and your short answer was “yes” you still enjoy comics. For movies and animation, I’m the opposite; I have very little interest in movies and animation these days (unless they’re truly exceptional). I think movies ruined me for a lot of the reasons you wrote. That and production shell-shock… and working on stories that aren’t my own. But I’m still as obsessed with the comic medium as I was when I picked up that first Andy Capp collection printed by Fawcett Publications off the shelf at my grandparents cottage.
And I know your aversion to thinking in the superhero vein. But I don’t see why you couldn’t do a short Rip Kirby, X-9, Heart of Juliette Jones, James Bond, Charlies Angels photo-real style short. My experience at Comic Con tells me they’re looking for that stuff. Actually that could even work in glamourpuss… anyway – just random ideas. Being of the Dave Sim School of comics myself, I totally understand NOT wanting to bother with that at all.
Regarding Diamond, I don’t mind discussing it at all. These were the boxes that were checked off on the form letter I received from them:
- The writing is not up to the comic industry standards. The following aspect(s) of your writing could use improvement.
- Story Concept (our market is slow for this type of product at this time)
- The publication specs you have chosen for your title have proven difficult sales-wise for out consumers and retailers. Please reconsider the print size and/or production quality of your publication.
The story concept comment, is strange to me because there ARE crime-drama stories (Criminal), and there ARE comics with cartoony characters (Bone, etc.) so I’m not sure what they’re getting at here. It sounds to me like they’re asking for superhero comics, which I’m not interested in doing.
For publication specs, I get the sense that what they’re really looking for is a graphic novel trade paperback OR a colour comic. I have no interest in making SPY GUY a colour comic (well, that’s not entirely accurate; I have TWO ideas for one-shot SPY GUY colour comics, but that’s it – absolutely no interest in a colour unlimited series.), so my thoughts for this suggestion were to collect the First Strike story into a collection. I even wondered if it would be worth while to see if another publisher would want to reprint it as it seems any comic with an Image “i” or an IDW or an SLG etc. on the cover gets more respect (insert Rodney Dangerfield routine here). Maybe that would help break through the direct market blockade…
Recently I’ve been thinking that my best course of action would be to post images of pages as they are completed online as a webcomic. I had been resisting this because I like the idea of a story coming out all at once on paper, but doing so would kill a few birds with one stone; it would help with exposure to expand the fan-base, it would force a certain amount of momentum with frequent updates, it would force me to complete a page before moving on to the next one and it would ease the gap it between getting the next comic done, since it does take a while making these comics during moonlighting hours. The BEST solution of course would be to get a comic done every month, or every two months, but when it doesn’t provide living expenses, it’s kind of like keeping your head underwater… you can only do it for so long.
Of course meanwhile over at HAVEN DISTRIBUTORS (where stores everywhere can order ALL of the SPY GUY issues to date) they gave a glowing review of SPY GUY #1 and made it the STAFF PICK! So when it comes to building bridges half-way, I’m thankful they reached out to me, and right now I’d like to do whatever I can to help build up their distribution. I think that would be healthy for comics as a whole.
When I talked to the folks at Midtown Comics at MoCCA Festival last year, they told me that the SPY GUY comics they picked up directly from me for Indy Comics Week sold REALLY well. And I should mention that it was Gahl Buslov at Midtown Comics who made the single largest purchase of SPY GUY and THE POSSUM to date. I’m eternally grateful that they took a chance on our books, and I’m thankful that it worked out well for them.
And this just came in via wireless internet from Blair somewhere between here and Texas…
Blair: The “Dave Sim the pariah” thing has always amazed me. It seems the people who claim to be the most “liberal” are the first people to get violently offended when someone does not agree with their liberal views. I guess I’m just not liberal enough to expect everyone else to think like me.
Seeing as though I’m somewhere between Cincinnati, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky as I’m typing this (on my way to Texas with the family), I don’t have access to my “Diamond rejection slip”, so I can’t quote it word for word, but essentially what they said was:
- They didn’t like my paper quality
- They didn’t like the cover to issue #1, and
- They said they’d like to see it as a trade paperback
To be honest, I didn’t send them issue #4 when I completed that one, but I’m planning to contact them after issue #5 is completed early this summer. You’d think that my solutions would be quite simple if I changed the paper quality, redid the cover to issue #1 and combined the first 5 comics with a square binding, wouldn’t you? I’m not entirely sure what they’re looking for though, as far as paper quality goes, because their critique is kind of vague. Are they looking for glossy white paper, or just a thicker newsprint? Can Jeff Smith get away with using newsprint on Rasl, because he’s Jeff Smith, or is he using the specific type of newsprint that Diamond likes? As for the cover to issue #1 I do see their point and I would have no problems redoing it and making it a little more dynamic. I like the current cover to issue #1 personally, but next to all the flashy covers in the Previews, I can see how it might get overlooked. As a collector’s standpoint, I don’t like the idea of having multiple issue #1’s out there, but maybe if I do get into Diamond one day the first printings or “non Diamond” versions can be the collector’s items (And I’ll be rich because I’ve got boxes of them in my basement!). On a side note, I bought Usagi Yojimbo #1 (first printing) off of Stan Sakai at last year’s San Diego Comicon for $5.00, and he must have had them since 1986, so I don’t feel too bad having a basement full of comics, as it’ll give me something to sell at conventions for years to come, at least! – Mike: Cutting in with an insert comment here; I remember us discussing this on the drive back to Kitchener, and the idea of creating scarcity in a collectors market with an issue number one. I knowingly printed an excess number of SPY GUY #1 with the intent of getting it into as many hands of new readers as possible, though my solution for creating a collectors item was to create the limited foil-stamped platinum edition à la glamourpuss #1. Okay, back to you Blair… I’m also not a fan of trade paperbacks that only collect 3 or 4 comics at a time and I’ve always pictured the first Possum trade as 10 or 15 comics at least, so the dilemma is finding a way to keep your artistic vision and make Diamond happy at the same time.
My plan as of now is to print issue #5 on my own using a similar format as the first 4 Possum comics (with a slight change of paper), and then figure out a format that Diamond likes. Your baseball analogy works really well. There’s a part of me that is waiting for the timing to be right, because if I ever DID get The Possum into Diamond, I’d have to be ready to go out all guns a’blazing and put everything I have into marketing and sticking to a bi monthly schedule at least. I think it’s a matter of being scared that I would only have one shot at making it work once it makes it into Diamond, and if I don’t have my sh*t together when that happens, I could miss the boat completely. Mike: Cutting in with another insert comment – I can’t say there is any fear for me. It’s strictly a tactical analysis. This is where my military analogies kick in. If I’m going to take a shot, I know I’d better make it a kill shot. If circumstances are not providing the shot I need, then I’d better reposition myself and keep my finger on the trigger. Until then I’ll just keep going ahead with the carpet bombs. Once the defences are weakened, then it’s time to send in the ground troops. Back to you Blair… Plus, there’s the matter of 3 little Kitchen’s and a missus to feed, and I haven’t wrapped my head around how I would do that if I was to start making comics full time, starting tomorrow. With all that said, I’m feeling that with 5 comics under my belt, the time is coming where if I’m going to do anything, it has to be soon, and I’m realizing that there’s a big difference between being someone who makes comics, and being a pro. It’s always a battle, deciding if the 3 or 4 hours a week I have to dedicate towards comics is going to be researching who to contact at Diamond and how to organize those damn barcodes, or if those 3 or 4 hours are going to be dedicated to inking page 8, but sooner or later the answer has to be “both”.
With all that said, I realize that there is no guarantees that if I make the changes I’ll even get into Diamond, and even if I do get into Diamond that my orders would meet the minimums, and even if they did meet the minimums, there’s no guarantee those orders would pay even a fraction of my bills. But as Mark Twain said (I think it was Mark Twain anyways) “Looking back, you’ll be more disappointed at the things you didn’t do than with the things you did do”…… and then there was something about sailing in there after that. If I wasn’t typing this from a car on Highway 71 (don’t worry, Rochelle took over driving duties while I type this), I’d look the quote up on the internet and quote it exactly so I sounded smarter than I am.
Now, after watching the last two episodes of Cerebus TV, I really would like to know where you learned to dance the twist!!, but keeping with a similar theme, I’ll ask you this one: What were your first impressions when you saw our books, and after hearing what Diamond thought and our reactions to it, I’d really like to hear any further thoughts or suggestions that you may have.
Mike: “Brace for impact!”
(and don’t forget to check out the links below!!)
Blair: Well, I agree with you 100% about trying to control people. My fear about bringing someone on to collaborate, would be that it automatically means giving up a portion of control. A huge lesson I learned from marriage, is that no matter how hard you try, it’s a losing battle if one spouse tries to control the other. It seems to me that you and Gerhard had the ideal partnership and it really is a feat what you two accomplished by making it to issue 300 and crossing the finish line together! (Kudos to you two on that!)
And yes, as we speak I’m getting ready to drive down to Texas with the family, early tomorrow morning, although it would take a lot more than a road trip to keep me from participating in a discussion like this. It seems with me these days, there’s always 2 or 3 pots in the fire, so I’ll just pretend it’s all business as usual and take part of the blame for planning a road trip the same week my episode of Cerebus TV is running.
Now, about my lovely wife, Rochelle: We met at Sheridan College in Oakville, while we were both taking the animation program there…. There were 4 or 5 girls in our graduating class, and somehow I managed to convince one of them to marry me. We actually worked together at many of the same animation studios once we graduated, which was a good thing, because with the hours we worked at some of those studios, we never would have seen each other if we weren’t working together. I’m not sure how familiar you are with the animation world, but depending on where you work it can be a pretty competitive industry with some very long hours (Much like comics I guess), and after 8 or 9 years of it, Rochelle was getting tired of the politics. Once we were married, and Rochelle was pregnant with our first child (Avery, or “Tex” as a few people we worked with liked to call her), she was more than happy to become a “full time mom”. It’s funny, because we had never really talked about whether or not she would stay home with our future kids until the inevitable discussion needed to take place, and I really, really didn’t like the idea of daycare. Luckily we were both on the same page with our thoughts and she was the one who suggested that she stay at home. It’s sad though, because a lot of women feel pressured to return to work, and I’m not sure if that pressure is real or if it’s put on them by themselves because of the unreal values that are in their minds of what a woman should do, but it’s definitely there. I understand that not all families can afford to live off of one income, and many things in this world don’t work the way they should, but from the children’s point of view, having a mother there to greet you when you get home from school is the best case scenario by far. I don’t even think that a stay at home dad can fill that role the same way a mom can. Rochelle is definitely not a comic book reader though. She can appreciate the art, but as far as interest in sitting down and reading a comic book goes, there’s not much there. I got her to read Jaka’s story once, but I’m not sure if she made it all the way through, and she read a few issues of Invincible, but that’s about it. I must say that it is nice to have a fellow artist in the house when I can’t get an expression right, or just to have a second pair of eyes. She always gets frustrated with me, because I tend to ask for advice a lot and when she gives me her opinion, I often say “no, I think it should be like this” and then do the opposite of what she suggested. (sometimes you just need to hear someone else’s opinion to actually realize what it is you wanted in the first place), although I did take her suggestion on the Possum’s expression for the cover of issue #5 which will be ready for Comicon this year. Rochelle still draws when she can though, during those rare moments when the kids are in bed and the Kitchen’s cleaned and the laundry is done. (much like me when my animation work is finished, and the garbage is put out, and the house is in working order). She has a sketchbook full of great children’s book ideas that she would really like to illustrate as soon as our youngest is in school (which is still a few years off). A few times when money has been tight, she’s toyed with the idea of picking up some animation work, and she still gets calls from studios from time to time, but I know she really doesn’t want to do it right now, and I think her time is much better spent working on her own artwork. As for her getting stuck with the babysitting duties in Halifax, that was her call. We were staying with an old friend in Halifax, and also visiting Mike and my sister who was living there at the time, and I think the thought of a nice quiet evening watching a movie trumped hanging out in a comic shop till 2:00 am with 3 tired children. During the Glamourpuss event, I think she was over at my sister’s place with the kids and their cousins, hanging out. By the grace of God, Mike and I did OK with finding wives that will give us their blessing as we run around from convention to convention, pretending we’re comic artists. All joking aside, it takes a lot of evenings, weekends and sacrifices to make these comic books, with no assurance that we will ever see a profit from them, and having a supportive spouse makes all the difference in the world.
Mike: My turn. The sports analogy is a great one. Personally, I always tend to think in military analogies for some reason; combat being a “young man’s game” as well. As I see my own youth slipping behind me, I find I’m tending to look at Will Eisner for inspiration – “The Plot” was a masterpiece. It keeps the thought in my head “it isn’t futile… keep going…”.
I looked up the stats on Gordie Howe:
– Oldest player to play in NHL: 52 years, 11 days (no other player has played past the age of 48)
– Only player to play in the NHL in five different decades (1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s)
– Another milestone in a remarkable career was reached in 1997 when Howe played professional hockey in a sixth decade. He was signed to a one-game contract by the Detroit Vipers of the IHL and, almost 70-years-old, made a return to the ice for one shift. In doing so, he became the only player in hockey history to compete in six different decades at the professional level, having played in the NHL, WHA and IHL from the 1940s to 1990s.
The formative years of SPY GUY were the late 1980′s. At that time the action hero cop genre was all over the place. Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop, Die Hard, et al… so the Action Movie was a HUGE influence. It doesn’t show so much in the one panel gag comics I created at the time, doodling in my sketchbook at Milton District High School, due to the limitations of the format… but in my head, that’s where it was going. When I discovered manga comics while at Sheridan College (shortly after I discovered Cerebus with issue #166) it became the moment everything crystallized in my mind. I wasn’t thinking SPY GUY so much at the time (I had moved on to a Cyber-Punk idea called ULTRAISTS) but the handling of black-and-white half-tones, and decompressed storytelling and manga action tricks started to fall into place like Tetris blocks in my mind.
“When I get this story arc done I’ll have a blueprint for a movie” is at the opposite end of the spectrum from where my mind is at. My experience with Hollywood definitely has me avoiding that, to keep SPY GUY strictly my own. A video game or something? Maybe (it would be something to pay the bills). But I can’t see SPY GUY surviving the Hollywood movie process intact.
An interesting aside; At San Diego Comic Con I was approached by someone who was apparently involved with the Bourne Identity movies, who was looking for new SPY material to be made into feature films. He asked if I ever though of having SPY GUY turned into a movie, and I told him that if it were ever to happen, I’d see it as an animated movie, at which point he visibly lost interest, though he gave me his card, and I gave him a comic. But the thought of having something like “Bruce Willis as SPY GUY” was a funny enough idea to keep me amused for quite some time after that.
Back to the question; I should also quantify this answer by saying my experience working on HELLBOY was a career highlight for me, so THAT wasn’t at all a factor. There are places where the HELLBOY movie went off the mark compared to the comic (which I was a huge fan of – so I was wanting it to hit the mark EXACTLY), but not NEARLY as off the mark as so many other comic-turned-movie projects. Tippett Studio (where we handled the animation) operation was analogous to a sports team. It was lunchbucket effects. A studio that brought out the best in artistic people. A place that encouraged us to exercise our creativity. Unfortunately I can’t say that about every other animation studio I’ve worked at. Those other studio experiences I can say have definitely been a factor. I always saw SPY GUY as my Mickey Mouse, or Bugs Bunny, or Charlie Brown… a character that I can keep going with… that can be dropped into any situation to get a story from… a character that can express what’s going through my head at any given moment. I’d hate to lose that.
I wouldn’t be against creating some other project with the intent of having a Hollywood blueprint to sell. Cash it in and ride the wave of success? Beats working the day job! But this is where the control freak nature for me comes in: If SPY GUY were to get the Hollywood treatment, I wouldn’t want it butchered, so I’d want some part in the creative process, which would probably require starting an animation studio, and next thing you know I’m running a studio and making the money-men happy rather than doing the hands on creating. Seems like a lot of hassle when I could be putting some of my own ink on some S-172 Bainbridge and telling the same story. Now if only I could earn enough of a living doing that to take care of my family…
Now I’ll ask YOU one: Since we’re speaking of creating “a blueprint for a movie”… Have you ever considered doing the Mark Millar “MILLAR WORLD” thing, where you create a comic mini-series of 3 to 8 comics to tell a short story that you’re not as attached to (as say Cerebus or glamourpuss) with the idea that it could be released into the Hollywood meat-grinder for a quick buck? I mean, the question seems moot, now that you’ve got your drawing board full with glamourpuss and Cerebus Archive… but I remember years ago via the Blog And Mail you had mentioned that Cartoon Network had been asking you about intellectual properties that you’re not as finicky about, and you mentioned a movie idea you had… AND I see that Jeff Smith just recently had the RASL movie rights picked up AND Doug TenNapel seems to be doing well with this model… and, well, I’m curious: What are your thoughts about creating a (disposable) comic mini-series as a blueprint for a movie?
ps. The tech people managed to solve my missing fax pages problem (so you can send them all at once like you did the first time), and now this whole exchange should go off without a hitch… God willing of course.