|Backcover, Glamourpuss #26 (July 2012)|
Art by Dave Sim
(from Glamourpuss #26, July 2012)
Well, unfortunately the answer to that question is "Yes": this IS the last issue of glamourpuss.
I began the book back in 2008 primarily as a means of helping me to pay off Gerhard some of the money I still owed him repurchasing his 40% of shares in Aardvark-Vanaheim, something I had been doing through 2007 and 2008 and would continue to do until he was paid off at the end of 2011 as per our legal agreement.
Originally I had hoped to pay him solely with the proceeds from sales of the Cerebus trade paperbacks and Judenhass.
Of course, as we all know, 2008 was the year the global economy went south in a major way. The Cerebus trade paperbacks were never exactly a box office bonanza at the best of times, but they sold steadily which meant that the revenue that used to pay general bills AND for reprinting the trade paperbacks (as Gerhard used to say, we'd spend a year reprinting the books and then live off the inventory for a year) now just paid general bills. New money was always needed to bring each trade paperback back into print in this new age where new money is always in short supply.
Judenhass ended up selling only 10,000 copies when it was first released and then sold virtually nothing after that. Which forced me to a couple of hard decisions: that I could never again do a carefully crafted piece of work where I didn't "let go" of a page until I was completely happy with it and that I needed to go back to doing a regularly published title since it was clear I couldn't expect to sell enough of any "one shot" to supplement my income except on a one-time basis.
This wasn't good news because I was pretty sure that I couldn't catch lightning in a bottle twice. Cerebus had been "it" for me. You can't compete against your own 300-issue series. But I had no choice. I had to try very publicly knowing that I could only fail very publicly.
So I developed glamourpuss and then hoped for the best. As soon as I saw the sales on the first issue - 16,000 - I knew that the title and my career were doomed.
Because of the sheer volume of material published in the direct market, retailers need to order the highest numbers on the first issue and then start cutting drastically - on average: 50% per issue thereafter. 16,000 down to 8,000 down to 4,000 down to 2,000 and... oblivion: because Diamond, quite reasonably, needs you to sell in order to offer your work in Previews.
As it turned out, the sales dropped, while predictably radical, unpredictably began to level off. I was still flying into the ground but not STRAIGHT into the ground, the point where I would crash moving an issue or two "downrange" each time. I made less money per issue as sales dropped, but, along with MOST of the money from the Cerebus trade paperbacks and ALL of the money from Judenhass, there was enough coming in to help me keep paying Gerhard, week after week, month after month, year after year.
I kept going with glamourpuss even after he was paid off in 2011 because that was the hidden detriment of doing a new title: you can't quit: because the retailers, naturally enough, are just going to look at your track record. If you scuttle your own title, they aren't likely to support the next one.
[I tested this theory in 2009 when I began Cerebus Archive, seeing that I needed the revenue from at least two regular titles, as sales on glamourpuss continued to drop, to help keep up my payments to Gerhard. If the retailers treated Cerebus Archive as a completely new thing and started it up around 16,000 or even a fraction of that 16,000, that would mean that I could start anew on a title when -- not if -- glamourpuss failed. If they just treated Cerebus Archive as the next issue of glamourpuss (then selling about 4,000 copies per issue) -- which is what they ended up doing -- then that meant when glamourpuss was done, so was my career for all intents and purposes.]
I was also slowing down in my ability to write and draw and I was trying to draw in a style that was really very far above my level of abilities. Bad combination in your mid- and then late fifties.
I tried selling both glamourpuss and Cerebus Archive as print-on-demand titles from ComiXpress, thinking that would help supplement my income. Not really. The built-in problem is how much it costs to ship individual books by mail in 2012. Too much, as it turns out. My royalties from sales of all the combined titles (38 comic books at the end there) was seldom more than $700 every three months or so.
I started Cerebus TV thinking that I could use an online Internet show to promote both titles, but couldn't figure out how to make it work financially even on a bare bones shoestring budget. I will be making a last-ditch attempt to recover some of the money I spent with Cerebus TV Digital Downloads at 99 cents per episode. Of course that 99 cents has to be split three and sometimes four ways. We'll see what happens. If anyone is actually reading these words and/or is interested Dave Fisher, Max Southall, John Scrudder and I would really appreciate your support. In a final attempt to keep going, I re-jigged glamourpuss with zootanapuss, using both the idea of a variant cover as zootanapuss No. 1 and double shipping each issue (5,000 when I only had orders for 2,500) with the idea that if the retailers had to order four copies of the regular book to get the low-print run incentive No. 1 and got twice as many copies as they ordered for three issues -- six months -- and had them to put out on display and for sale in their stores, that they would take whatever increase in sales there was and add it to their orders on No. 25 and I could start sales going back in the right direction.
|Zootanapuss #1-5 (November 2011 to July 2012)|
Art by Dave Sim
It actually worked. Sales did go up on No. 25... but only by 34 copies over No. 24. I had arrived at my career end point.
I pulled the plug first on Cerebus Archive, then on Cerebus TV and then on glamourpuss. Not really saying anything to anyone, just walking away and starting my Doomsday Scenario -- selling my Cerebus original artwork as slowly as possible, and looking at ways to liquidate the Cerebus Archive itself, up to and including just sending all of it to a landfill site or paying 1-800-GOT-JUNK to haul it all away, selling the house, liquidating the last of my RRSPs and my life insurance policy and just... disappearing. This planning continues in various forms and permutations... although with the success of the High Society Kickstarter campaign (and thank you, if any of our pledge partners are reading this), now postponed for however many months the Kickstarter money lasts. I'm guessing somewhere between November of this year and March of next year.
Of course the dangling thread is that while I started glamourpuss with just some idle musings on The History of Photorealism in Comics, this eventually evolved into a more elaborate and more deeply researched narrative which -- obviously -- I would rather not leave just dangling so long as I'm able to hang on by my fingernails. I doubt I'll live long enough to do an actual History, so it's now compressed into The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond with preamble material and a framing sequence from glamourpuss No. 1 to 13.
At the rate I'm going, I would guess I could get, maybe, another 15 pages done if my career lasts until November of this year or 30 pages if my career lasts until March of next year. I only have a rough estimate of how many pages I have left to go, but it is considerably more than 15 or 30 pages.
I've been dividing my twelve-hour working day into two segments: things I do to make money and glamourpuss. Now, I'll be dividing my working day into things I do to make money and attempting to finish The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond. Then come November or March, I'll be dividing my time between Doomsday Scenarios and attempting to finish The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond. Even if I get rid of everything and quit, I'm hoping the last thing I'll be working on that last day as 1-800-GOT-JUNK hauls everything away, will be a page of The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond which will then be sent to... someone, I don't know who... as the last page of Dave Sim's last uncompleted work.
I'll be posting updates on both my progress on The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond -- although probably not the pages themselves -- as well as whatever Doomsday Scenario as it kicks in at Dave Sim Art.
So, now I walk away from my almost totally silent audience of 2,400 and prepare to stave off complete oblivion with the 1,140 Kickstarter pledge partners. Wish me luck.
Thanks for buying this, and thanks for buying however many other issues you bought, whoever you are.
And thanks, Eddie Khanna and Johnny McPhanbot (whoever YOU are). It was very weird and doomed to failure from Day One...
...but it was a lot of fun while it lasted.
|The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond (Glamourpuss #26, July 2012)|
Art by Dave Sim
(Click image to enlarge)