Originally serialised within the pages of the self-published Glamourpuss #1-26 (April 2008 to July 2012), The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond is an as yet uncompleted work-in-progress in which Dave Sim investigates the history of photorealism in comics and specifically focuses on the work of comic-strip artist Alex Raymond and the circumstances of his death on 6 September 1956 at the wheel of fellow artist Stan Drake's Corvette at the age of 46.
(from the Kickstarter Updates #137 & 138, 14 January 2013)
...See, I've kind of backed myself into a corner on [THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND]. It's basically a roughly 300 page uncompleted narrative and I really need to complete it. That's not something you can just leave hanging with an "ah, well -- maybe someday". The biggest problem that I'm facing right now is that I don't know how long it is. I'm still writing it and visualizing it. This is the third month of taking the corrected pages from glamourpuss (expanded, edited, modified and adjusted) and reading them through from the beginning. This is a VERY different way of writing a book from what I did with CEREBUS where it was all forward momentum. 20 pages done every month and they stayed done. Because I had 20 more pages to do next month, running ahead of the freight train for 26 years. In this situation, there really is NO deadline so I'm actually able to write it as you would a book. Creating it and revising it on an on-going basis.
Eddie Khanna who has been amazingly helpful with the research (I mean, AMAZINGLY helpful) had a one-hour phone conversation on Saturday because he has absolutely buried me in research materials and we absolutely needed to talk. Mostly me reassuring him that it is fine that he is doing so. It takes some to keep up with it, but there are so many really good nuggets of material I couldn't even consider saying STOP EDDIE! which is what he was worried about.
I'm doing four covers for IDW a month to help pay the bills and then spending the rest of the month working on the book. I was sick just after Christmas so that slowed me down for the last couple of weeks. But even that was good. I had whatever I had six years ago and one of the things is an inability to organize things. So, I basically started inputting the script into my laptop in the Kubert lettering font. Boom boom boom, the actual "Strange Death of Alex Raymond" section (Part Five as far as I know) picking up where I left off in glamourpuss No.26. It would take me half an hour to figure out "where next?" But I would and then find that part in my notebooks and input that. Sometimes I had to look for twenty minutes to find one caption, but then I would find it. And re-reading now that my head isn't full of wool, it actually works. Or seems to.
But, to repeat, I STILL don't know how long the book is. No idea. Conservative guess, it could be another 200 pages -- maybe 300. Well, I'm slowing down and while I was doing glamourpuss I was down from my CEREBUS-high 240 pages a year to 120 pages a year. So even with a ballpark guess we're talking about two or three years' worth of drawing once the book is completely written. And no idea how long it's going to take to write it.
It's a structurally more effective way to do it than when I was doing 10 pages every two months in glamourpuss and also doing CEREBUS ARCHIVE and CEREBUS TV. Theoretically, once the book is written I will be basically drawing full time. IDW covers alternating with STRANGE DEATH pages and hopefully getting better at a style -- photorealism -- that is way out of my comfort zone.
I just wanted to make a point of saying THANK YOU for the donations to The Dave Sim Fund... THAT'S helping a lot. $1, $5 and $10. If YOU can keep up over the next year or two with what you've been doing so far, hopefully we can make this work. You, me, IDW and every once in a while Diamond with a book order and the HIGH SOCIETY downloads at 99 cents.
What I'm trying to avoid is getting trapped in "the advance game". Whatever advance I might get for the book would have to last a year or two years and I doubt I could get an advance that big. So I have to get much further downfield just with the revenues that are coming in before I even think about shopping the book around. That presents another problem...
...There are a lot of variables here. I am getting slower. It took me nine days to do four covers this month (I was sick, but hey...) which, fortunately, IDW Editor-in-chief Chris considers fast. And he likes the covers. But if there is initial "slippage" that's where it's going to occur first: instead of taking the first week of the month, it takes the first HALF of the month (or close to). Likewise if the revenue from four covers proves not to be enough. Then I have to do more covers and that comes out of STRANGE DEATH time. This is like an investors' report or a team owner's report. I think I'm okay, but I am 57 so -- as the people who are making it possible for me to continue with this -- I want to give you an honest overview. It's also starting to have intonations of UNDERWATER and TYRANT -- Chester Brown and Steve Bissette's books which they were both chugging away on and suddenly both books just started growing from the inside out. Which led Chester to shelve UNDERWATER and start LOUIS RIEL (and to make sure he had a finished script for the 12 issues before he even started drawing) (so that's what I'M doing: I don't start drawing the book again until I have a finished script, however long that takes). I couldn't blame you if you don't want to risk $5 or $10 on that right now. I'm hoping to have a definitive "this is how many pages it is" ballpark figure as soon as possible. But it is evolving while I'm NOT working on it. Coming back to it this month, I thought, "The beginning needs work." So, that's what I thought I was going to do. Turned out the beginning doesn't need work. It just needed to be two parts. Instead of PART ONE: THE INVENTION OF PHOTOREALISM, I suddenly saw that it was PART ONE: FOSTER & CANIFF & RAYMOND (OH, MY!) (and, yes, there is a weird tie-in with THE WIZARD OF OZ but much further up ahead in THE HEART OF MARGARET MITCHELL section) (if I have room -- I'm only including the absolute "A" material at this point) and PART TWO: NIGHTINGALE, NIGHTINGALE TEST PATTERN & NIGHTINGALE DARK: THE REFINING OF PHOTOREALISM. That actually took care of a major concern: that I was giving short shrift to Raymond's inking (which is what this all started from). Like going into the month thinking you need major surgery and find out you only need a couple of stitches. Quite a relief.
And the UNNAMED section I talked about last time. I told Eddie what it was called and what it was about and there was this long, dead silence on the phone. "Um, yeah, you might want to be careful about that." Not something I didn't already know. But Eddie is the world's biggest Dave Sim -- as opposed to CEREBUS -- fan. So, if he says that, I think my gut instinct is pretty good.
[Eddie asked me if I was enjoying working on it. Which was an interesting question. The predominant sense is that it has to be done. You don't leave a 300+ page book and just move onto something else. If everything continues to fall in the right direction and I can keep my head above water and actually figure out HOW LONG THE...ahem...how long the darned thing is and then finish the script and be able to draw EXCLUSIVELY at THAT point I can definitely picture myself enjoying myself. When I have a page count, I'll have a ballpark idea of how long it's going to take to do it. And because I won't be doing anything BESIDES the IDW covers and THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND -- no CEREBUS ARCHIVE or fashion side of glamourpuss (*SOB*) or CEREBUS TV -- I might even be able to get my annual page count UP from the 100 or so pages a year that I can (sort of) guarantee right now (God willing).
And it is a luxury to be able to fine-tune and polish a long piece of work like this, in a way I could never do on CEREBUS. Always moving ahead but always doubling back. The same thing I reported before. You fix as many things as you can and every time through you find other things to fix that have been sticking in your mind for the last two months. And every time going through saying "Oh, I fixed that. Good, that needed fixing."]
So the UNNAMED section was the section I was researching today. Nothing heavy: just about eight Google searches. ONE of which led me seriously down a rabbit hole where I found an interview with a guy I previously could find NO information about no matter where I looked, but whose work I've been crazy about since I was, like, ten. A SIXTY-PAGE interview. "This is why we DON'T have the Internet at home." Like I had died and gone to heaven. This is HIM this is HIM talking about his career. Maybe he'll talk about the project I'm looking for. He HAS to! Well, no he doesn't. He got to it on page 57 and dismissed it in one phrase.
But, combined with everything else that I got on that project, I'm pretty sure it's now a completely separate book. In the (I admit it, largely unlikely event) that THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND actually sells some copies eventually, well, this would be the perfect follow-up. IF I want to follow-up THE STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND. I might just want to do covers for IDW. Or just sit in a corner gumming my oatmeal. Gum Gum Gum.
...Also, they are VARIANT covers. So, please, don't be crazy. You have to order, like 20 copies of some of the books to get the VARIANT cover. I'm not really in "cover artist" category. I'm in VARIANT cover artist category. Offhand I can't think of ANYONE who can afford to buy a Dave Sim variant cover. Tim will be running all of them on A MOMENT OF CEREBUS. There it is. You've got it. Print it out onto slick paper if you want and put it in a comic bag with a backing board. NO. DIFFERENCE. I mean, serious reality check: NO. DIFFERENCE. If you want to read the comic book, buy the comic book and put the printed out copy on slick paper on top of it.
NO. DIFFERENCE. PEOPLE.
I'll tell you all about the cover as IDW releases them and sends them to Tim for AMOC. Stay tuned. And the original art will be auctioned by Heritage Auctions. Every IDW cover in their weekly online auction. We're coordinating it right now. Chris says he will know six weeks out when the issue's street date is and that will be the date of the art auction (if Lon is able to coordinate it at Heritage, which I'm sure he will). God willing, 48 covers a year. It's all to buy as much uninterrupted STRANGE DEATH OF ALEX RAYMOND time as possible. Speaking of which, I'm going back to the house to get back to it.
Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond'.
Help finance Dave Sim to complete 'The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond'.