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September 25, 2012

Another Brief Update From Book Expo Estarcion

The comments on the post through which the cartoonist and self-publishing maverick Dave Sim has insisted on a public negotiation of a potential publishing relationship with Fantagraphics has become more genial and more interesting in certain ways, more calcified in others. Both Kim Thompson and Dave Sim left the weekend on positive notes, and pros like Ed Brubaker and James Owen showed up to voice support for some sort of archival edition being made available.

imageThere does seem to be a weird disconnect between Thompson and Sim that's just now coming to light. Sim has been insisting that the only books on the table are from the latter half of the series. Kim Thompson seemingly has little to no interest in this material. What actual books are on the table would seem to be a big issue, but I suppose that some folks may miss key information like that when there's an insistence on negotiating things via a comments thread. I'm sure everyone noticed the person who came on shrieking that Gary Groth apologize to Dave Sim, though.

As a disinterested observer, Sim's proposal seems really misguided. For one, it's based on this bizarre misconception of the kind of book Thompson and Fantagraphics would be interested in, a misapprehension based on a poor reading of what the publisher of Prison Pit and The Furry Trap actually does, fueled to significant extent by what seems to be a... let's say severe belief in the cultural-literary influence of the Sunday Book Review in the New York Times. This all seems even more odd given that if you want to know what a publisher is interested in publishing, maybe it's best to go by what that publisher says it wants rather than a complicated projection of what you're certain it should want.

Also, my hunch is that the only people who would want Fantagraphics to publish later work first are Sim and a few devoted fans in a subset of his overall fan base. And to be honest with you, I'm not sure how sincere that desire is. Either way, it's a rotten idea. I'm a big fan of Sim's work, and I simply don't have the interest in new editions of that later material the way I would have an interest in new editions of the earlier material. Nor would I recommend the later work to people that haven't read it to the degree I'd recommend the earlier work. That's work you publish later on, after a series is established. In addition, having the earlier work seems like a better project to have if that's all that ends up collapsing a few years in and, most importantly, is a much better basis on which to publish a lot of that work overall. So it seems to me the obvious thing that should be on the table is four books derived from High Society and the non-swamp monster Cerebus The Barbarian books directly leading up to that material, if not just four books of the first 50 issues of the series straight up. Either strategy would mirror other archival projects that start from the beginning or with early primetime material. Publishing later material because of some misapprehension concerning literary comics seems to me like Fantagraphics starting its Peanuts volumes in 1987 because someone at the syndicate thought they could tap into 1980s nostalgia and was convinced that 1980s nostalgia is what Fantagraphics is good at, even though that's clearly not what Fantagraphics is good at.

At any rate, that seems to me an impasse that either gets negotiated by Sim switching to talking about books in which Thompson seems actually interested, or Thompson developing interest in the later material either on their own or as a starting point to eventually get to the material he wants. This could crumble really soon. I think Sim has options that aren't going to work on an oil rig or a fishing boat and leaving comics behind altogether, or whatever he was talking about in that initial editorial. That doesn't mean every reasonable-sounding option will appeal to Sim. There are other publishers, and other directions to go. And maybe this one gets salvaged, I don't know. But it doesn't look good. Something fell.
posted 5:00 pm PST | Permalink

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