high-functioning fuckup

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CONVERSATION GARDENING– I’M UP.

(authors note: this was ready to post last week, but then all things computer in my life went south, all at once. coincidence? well, yeah actually but it’s fun thinking it was The Invisible Hand Of Jeff Bezos)

so, there is all kinds of crazy shit going on in the world right now.

but, for the moment– this thing with Amazon.

it’s been ongoing for a while, but a bunch of it came to its most recent head this past year. my friend Anders Nilsen crafted this beautiful response, and called the project “Conversation Gardening”. i urge you to read the great little comic he did (part 1, part 2), explaining his viewpoint and reasoning behind the project. the concise explanation is this: Amazon is (and has been) attempting, through various means, to undermine and destroy the “conversation” of ideas between books (and the ideas contained in those books, as well as the creators of those ideas) and the people who read them.

so, in a very small way “Conversation Gardening” is about extending that conversation, rather than killing it like Amazon. in that spirit, he’s passing the idea along through other artists, and i’m happy and honored to take a turn, here.

it works like this:

1) you buy a book by me from me or a comic shop/ independent bookseller.

2) then you send me a piece of paper, in an envelope, with a question on it.

zak/ la mano

p.o.box 580828

minneapolis, mn

55458

3) i draw my answer and we scan it and put it up so everyone can see it (thereby extending said conversation), then i send it back to you, and you get to keep it.

obviously, for me, there’s a 97% chance that you DID get it from me or a comic shop. only a couple of my books are available on Amazon. all my stuff (and a bunch of other fantastic artists’  work) is available at the La Mano site, if you feel like going there. and since i just put a new thing out, i’m extending this to the FIRST 15 I GET IN THE MAIL. if you already bought a Recidivist, that counts. if you’re buying one now, that counts as well. Eleanor Davis is doing this too at some point, and i wouldn’t blame you bit if you took her up on it, she’s an awesome lady and draws so good i want to cry.

and here’s the blog where Anders has been posting the drawings he’s been doing for this thing. we’ll post mine and presumably Eleanor’s too as we do them, just to keep them all in one spot.

that’s the short version. Again: i’m happy and proud to contribute to this. it’s been pissing me off for some time and Anders coming up with this deal provides a way to do something cool and positive in the way of a response. that’s it, you can stop there of you want.

but i’m going to keep going, here, because i want to add something to the conversation Anders started.

and what i want to add is this– this situation is not without its precedents, and its nuances. i’ve heard that there is a significant population of self-publishers who feel that Amazon has allowed them to make a living, and make it in a way that cuts out the middleman, i.e publishers (and the entire structure that goes along with it). and further, that this is a pretty revolutionary idea in terms of what “publishers” mean and represent: publishers as “gatekeepers”, and that this new model can put the writer’s art (and potential financial gain) in their own hands, rather than held within that NYC dominated literary culture; no one decides what “worthy” of being published or not– if you can build the readership, it’s worthy. and Amazon can provide a platform for that, with some authors.

if you’re reading this post, on MY blog, you probably know that there are parts of that argument that are very appealing to me.

but. there’s other parts that i seriously disagree with. there are publishers that i love and respect. lots and lots of them, actually. there are many, many bookstores that i love and respect.

maybe Amazon does facilitate a new openness and freedom on certain levels. that’s a good conversation to have, and i’m sure it’s true in some cases.

but what i know for certain, beyond that, is that Amazon as an entity behave like fuckheads, and the specific WAY they behave like fuckheads is, for me, What Is Wrong With The World.

and if you’re not in for the long haul, bail now, because this is where i’m not going to edit myself, on purpose.

for quite a while, i — like many people in the world– just accepted Amazon as “the way the world is going”, and their growing dominance of the sales of books/ replacement of the brick and mortar store as an unfortunate but natural result of “our digital age”. they were quick, easy and cheap. i love my bookstores, but realize most people don’t “love” them– they are just a place where you’ve got to go to buy books, by necessity. now that we have a way to facilitate that “transaction” without having to leave the comfort of your home, it stands to reason that many people are going to choose that option.

i will even say that for a while i thought “damn! this is so cheap! this is great!”.

and therein lies the problem. i slowly became aware of just how dominant they must be… they were undercutting retail prices to the degree that  i–as someone who has been involved somewhat in the selling of books– began to sense that something was wrong, here (and i was right). obviously, they could sell at those prices because of volume–this new mode of operation must have had a CRAZY HUGE response. that’s how i reasoned it anyway. and that if that volume of books were being sold, it had to be good for authors and publishers as well, somewhere along the line. what i was blissfully unaware of is how they achieved that dominance.

my first Amazon-As-Shitheel moment came when i read an article some years ago about a premium they were offering– which was this: take a picture of the price of a book at a mom and pop/ independent store, and send it to Amazon. they will then reward you, the consumer, for buying it FROM THEM instead of the independent bookseller by giving you an extra 20% off.

i was stunned. that is some fucked up behavior. no-holds-barred dickheadedness of the first degree.

soon after, i did a signing at Minneapolis’ best independent bookstore, Magers and Quinn. my pal Jay worked there at the time and i asked him about that; he said in a very matter of fact way, “oh yeah. they are awful. unbelievable bullies. every bookstore knows that they are actively trying to run them out of business.”, and proceeded to give me some sense of how they conducted themselves within the book world. and the way he described it felt like a given, something he’d been dealing with for a good long while. it is not pretty, and you could most certainly read all about it in the book they (Amazon) tried to suppress for a while until people called them on it and they stopped.

it is perfectly clear that they are behaving exactly as every good capitalist organization should– don’t get some, or even a lot. get all of it. no market share is too large, or too complete.

and Amazon has made it very, very clear that their goal is not to be “the biggest”; they are that now and have been for some time. their goal is to utterly wipe out any and all competitors– big, small, medium, tiny. the way in which they go about this is ugly, and pernicious; they use that huge market share to bludgeon and muscle their way into your home and they have a clear and stated mandate to decimate competitive businesses whenever possible.

and let’s take me as an example– i’m not rich. between me and my wife, we do ok. we’ve recently clawed our way into “middle class”. i like books; it’s actually about the only thing i regularly spend money on. so, i want some book, probably some full color hardcover about some obscure cartoonist (ok actually it’s Alley Oop by V.T Hamlin. god i love me some Alley Oop.). it’s at the bookstore (well, comic store actually but same difference in this case) for retail, $75. ouch. i’ve got a friend here who owns a great, great comic store. obviously, i want to give him my business. my PERSONAL FRIEND, the SMALL BUSINESSMAN, who in both a personal and professional and ethical sense, i very much want to succeed and prosper, sometimes can give me a 10% discount. because he’s MY PERSONAL FRIEND. so now it’s $68 (add tax and its basically over $70 again, but still).

that book is on Amazon for $47. arrives right at my door in a week.

it makes a very easy decision–”buy book from friend. support friend’s business” pretty goddamn difficult. and, i’ll say it– political. CHOOSING to pay SIGNIFICANTLY MORE for something is…. not easy. we’ve been hardwired our entire lives to NOT do this. it’s downright UNAMERICAN. as i said, my family is doing…ok. but spending a third more on something i maybe shouldn’t even be buying in the first place (because “doing ok” doesn’t mean we actually have a savings account to speak of or any of that crazy stuff) feels just wrong. and i’ll cop to it– in leaner times 6ish years back, it was just an imperative (if i did it at all). i can barely afford $47, i can’t justify $75 on a non essential item. period. i’m not proud, but i ordered a few books from Amazon that way. but there’s my point– they HAD me. and maybe they have you, too. the lowest price? yeah , well, somebody pays, somewhere.

what is a normal store owner supposed to do in the face of that? match that price? that’s what he or she buys it for WHOLESALE. (ps– Amazon was hauled before court for these Monopolistic tactics, but they said “we’re not price controlling, we’re keeping prices LOW for consumers!”. and they won. assholes.)

they are doing that so that there will be no one left. and you better fucking believe that when there’s nobody left you’re not going to be getting the cheapest deal any more. you will be getting the only deal, and that deal will be every dime they can get out of you. THAT’S “the way things are”. is there anyone stupid or naive enough to believe differently?

and we accept that fuckheadedness as “just business” (ever notice how often “it’s just business” is just a justification for behaving like an asshole and exhibiting reprehensible ethics?). this is, obviously, a systemic problem that extends far beyond Amazon. it’s deeply, deeply troubling, and far smarter and more well-informed people than me are crafting much more reasoned and intelligent responses to this phenomenon. but Amazon makes a damn fine example of why and how things are so critically fucked up right now, economically (and by “economically” i mean– for PEOPLE. for HUMAN BEINGS. for sizable business entities, it’s going pretty damn good, i think.). and it also speaks to why so many thoughtful, sane people (and i aspire to count myself in that group, if possible) walk around in an apoplectic stupor all day in the face of this heinous bullshit.

and yes, i know; that is just the way things are. i’m not stupid, and i’m not a child.

my point is– do you LIKE it? are you ok with that? because yes, it is the way things are, and has been for a long damn time, but it also doesn’t change the fact that it totally blows. one fact does not negate the other.

me, i don’t like it at all.

i can’t wrap this up in a bow for you, me, or anyone.

this is books. but it’s also…take your pick. Amazon or not. and i don’t pretend that ME not shopping at Amazon, or that doing drawings for questions that nice folks send me in the mail is going to solve any of this.

i think we’re faced with this particular situation a hundred times a day, around very corner. sometimes we know it, a lot of the time we don’t. in this case, we do.

so i’m going to spend my money elsewhere, and do drawings for people, because it’s a cool thing to do. it’s why i like all this stuff in the first place. it’s just my tiny investment in a possible future where these douchebags don’t run the show.

–zak.

 

 

 

 

RECID IV free online version: I DIDN’T LIE (but i did sort of change my mind).

soooooo. i announced a couple places that i was putting up the entire contents of RECIDIVIST IV online, and i said i would do it this past week.*

well, i did. but its hidden and i think i’m going to keep it that way for a little while. this is NOT a bait and switch, i swear.

here’s what happened. for those of you who have purchased the thing; firstly– thank you. and secondly– you probably know by now that it takes some wrestling and digging to read it. but i explained all that elsewhere.

here’s the transparency part– while that difficulty in reading is almost entirely on purpose, and was my intent from the very beginning, i have to admit that on a couple pages, it went further than i wanted it to. the process bit me. i’d done test prints and all that, but… ink density and all those layers of riso ink….there’s spots where it doesn’t punch through.

as i said– i wanted a specific effect, and for it to be very difficult in spots. but not impossible. that was not my intent. i worked real hard on those words, and believe it or not, they’re meant to be read.

and so i cursed myself for a few days straight. and then i thought– it is what it is, what do i do with it? and all of a sudden i started to find it really…interesting. because HAVING to read it in another form to get the “missing” text…well heck i didn’t plan that but…when you think about it, it underlines the theme(s) of the whole book, and adds a layer that i hadn’t intended, and never would have considered had everything gone “perfectly”. so i decided i was going to put up a readable copy, for free. also because i just thought that’d be awesome.

but that wasn’t the only factor. it was also because i had to price it higher than i wanted ($20 is no small change. the zine guy in me thought that was a travesty, and the 43 year old man in me who spent 18 months on it told him to go to hell), and lastly– because i thought a free version would sort of lay bare the fact that… it’s fine to be reading it on a screen, that’s the “content”, but this thing is clearly a tactile object. that’s how it functions, that’s its intended form. the difference between the 2 would be so clear and distinct that it would almost be like two completely different books that contained exactly the same information.

and i think that is nuts. and really interesting. that the “easy” version is free, to any and everyone that wants to read it. but the object, the piece of art that’s HARD to read…that costs something. because you get to keep it. and because i worked like hell on it.

so, my awesome pal Bob helped me get the whole thing formatted and up in the virtual world. the text had been cleaned up so there was no funny business. it looks great, you can just READ it, easy peasy. all i had to do was tap a keyboard and that was that.

but then i freaked out and changed my mind.

here’s why: look, i’ve been really, really happy with the response to this thing. rather than a rousing chorus of “what the fuck” (which is what i expected), people seem to be really spending time with it, and taking it for what it is. wrestling with it and busting it apart. because you have to, to get anything out of it. that’s what i hoped to do, and it seems like that’s happening, and i couldn’t be more pleased about that fact.

and i realized– putting a “clean” easy version up would put an end to that, right away. there’d be no reason to battle it out with the thing. it very well could ruin the experience of the printed version, rather than add to it.

i mean– i wouldn’t. if i knew i could go online and just READ the thing without any hassle…when the thing got hard to read i’d try for a minute and then just say “screw this”. i just would. it’s human nature.

OR if you check it out and read it for free, and think “hey! i really like this and want the print version”, and then ordered it…the jig is up, you know? somebody already spilled the milk so it can’t help but be a letdown. you’d be robbed of how the thing is SUPPOSED to work. it’d just be this dead thing you got in the mail, rather than something you get to play with, and fall into for a while.

any of you who know me/ La Mano know that i am potentially the worst businessman in the world, and my “marketing” savvy is nonexistent. i’m not jacking anyone around. i thought it’d be really cool to let people read it for free, and then realized wait maybe that’s not so cool at all.

i am still going to put it up. just not… for a while. especially for all of you who bought one and have pages you just can’t read (and you want to).

i think i should let it play out a while.

sorry for the runaround.

thanks and best,

zak.

ps–anyone who wants to pipe up on this in the comments, whether you’ve seen/ bought the thing or not…i’d be real interested to hear your thoughts.

 

*with an $18 refund to anyone who felt ripped off by this move.

 

TCJ/ RECID IV

thoughtful and astoundingly thorough review of the new RECIDIVIST at The Comics Journal. check it out.

–z.

 

COMICS REPORTER interview/ RECIDIVIST IV

very nice interview up at my favorite comics site, The Comics Reporter. buried in there somewhere is the fact that i’ll be posting the entirety of RECIDIVIST IV online (for free) later this week. details to come.

–z

COMIC ART BROOKLYN/ RECIDIVIST IV

unfortunately, i won’t be able to make Comic Arts Brooklyn (happening this weekend), which is usually really, really great: but the new Recidivist will. there will be 25 copies for sale, at the Uncivilized Books table.

if you’re in the area, go to the show. it’s amazing.

–z.

RECIDIVIST 4

IMG_1607-768x1024

well, it’s done. you can order it here.

here’s what it is:

1) 56 pages, on a couple different paper stocks, printed in 8 colors on the Risograph, and then metallic silver on the offset press.

2) with a cd (a 21 minute noise/ drone thing i did)

3) written, drawn, printed, recorded, hand collated, stapled, and assembled by me.

http://lamano21.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/r_COM_2_1.mov

i made XXX of them, and i am NOT MAKING ANY MORE.*

it’s $20.

(+ $2.25 postage, but to make up for that, you will get a small 5 x 7″ 2-color riso print, each signed and numbered. these ONLY come with an order direct from me, and won’t be available anywhere else)

why started out with the idea that ‘i’ll just bang out a zine, quick and easy”, turned into the single most involved, complicated thing i’ve ever produced. 6 months turned into 18 months. i plan to not read it for a while, but right now– i feel great. it’s as naked a book as i’ve ever done, and it is one of the most absurd…objects i’ve ever seen.

and, i feel like that needs some explanation; because if you feel like you are ordering something normal, you need to know that you are not. if you engage this thing like you would any book you get at a store, you are going to be unhappy. this is a different deal– not a little bit, but all the way.

this book is NOT for everyone. if you are looking for a passive, easy reading experience, this is not it. that’s sort of what the book is about. there’s a reason the text is so difficult to read, there’s a reason a CD is included instead of a download code. and it’s not difficult for difficult’s sake– it really does have to do with the content of the book itself. do i think every book should be like this? hell no. but this one is.

if all this sounds like an apology, let me assure you; IT IS NOT AN APOLOGY.

seriously– there are significant portions of this thing that you can only read if you hold it up to the light at a really, really precise angle. i’ve never seen a book like that, and (mostly) i did that on purpose, for a specific reason. but make no mistake–it’s a pain in the ass. there is a very, very large group of people in the world who would regard reading a book like that as a pointless, ridiculous, and maddening endeavor. those are people who should  NOT send me $20. you will be bummed and so will i. but if you reacted to that last sentence with “holy shit. are you kidding me? that sounds insane”, well, click that button i got something for you. because it’s 2014, and i really felt strongly about making something pointless, ridiculous, maddening, and beautiful. it’s about failure and obsolescence and fear and hope and why anyone in this day and age would spend time and energy making and disseminating obscure printed sheets of paper with stuff on it. and why that still matters, even if all signs point  to the contrary.

you might like it, you might hate it; either is ok with me. but one thing is for absolutely certain: this is a very odd little object, and an object that can’t accurately be described as a zine, a book, a commercially produced item, or even a comic. it’s all those things, i guess, but also it’s not. to me, it feels like no one else would make something like this, the way i made it (i’ll do a post next week about HOW i made it). it doesn’t look like it’s trying to be something else, because it isn’t. most of the time, the form of “the thing” is just to contain the content, or the ideas inside. with this Recidivist, the form IS the content, and vice versa; they are not separate. i’m not trying to sound conceptual or academic, here: i’m saying that’s what happened.

it’s a pretty indicative document of what and who i am, and where i’ve ended up; from the content to the production to every damn thing you can name. so, it’s important to me that, by and large, that comes full circle; i made it, and given the nature of it, i’m the one who’s going to be selling it.

i’ll probably send some to the couple stores in the country that would like to have some, and John P’s Spit and a Half distro, and i might send some with some pals to sell at shows or what have you. but, basically, the way i want to sell these is to people, right here. me and you. this isn’t a Kickstarter and it’s not a plea for help. i’m not a salesman and this isn’t a product. if you want one, i want you to have one, and I’m gonna send it to you. it means i sent it to a real human being, and that’s the way i like it.

you get to a point where you are faced with the reality of quitting or doubling down. guess which one this is.

FAIR WARNING– please DO NOT send it back for any of these reasons:

it is physically difficult to read.

yup. there are literally MILLIONS of books that are very easy to read, physically. this is not one of them (but maybe if you get through it you can find out why). i’m not being snotty or catty. it’s just what happened. what the hell kind of person would spend a million hours making a book you can’t read? me, i guess. someone’s gotta do it.

some (or many) of the pages look weird, or blurry, or misregistered.

yes. you are correct. the riso has anywhere from a 16th to 1/8th inch variance on any given sheet, and when you are lining up 6 colors, each on a different pass, it’ll do that. you could look at this 2 ways:

1) that you don’t like it, and it looks weird.

2) it’s how it got made. and that is part of the deal. i could have had it printed professionally, BUT I DIDN’T. that’s what the book is about. it didn’t go through a bunch of peoples hands, in a bunch of different places/shops/countries to get made, it just went through mine: that’s what makes it what it is, and that ludicrous amount of labor is why i had to make it $20. you are not buying a book at the bookstore, you are buying something somebody made.

saying that every single copy is different from the others is not a stretch, it’s a fact. do you own many books like that? i don’t.

the CD sounds like a bunch of noise.

also correct.

should i listen to it while i read the book/ comic/ whatever?

well, you sure could. i would ask that you listen to it pretty loud, as it seems to work best that way. but i’ll never know either way, so do whatever you’d like.

the ink sort of smudges and comes off in my hand.

yes, i know. welcome to Risography.

wait– i don’t know if this is a comic, or a zine, or a book, or what. what is this thing?

exactly.

and that’s that.

thanks and best,

zak.

* i’m not saying how many i made, on purpose. sorry.

i’ve had conversations with folks that say “well, if it’s over X amount, it really can’t be regarded as a handmade object”. and i understand that impulse. i like that too.

how many did i make? well, i sold about 2500 of the last Recidivist. lets just say it’s way, WAY LESS than that.

i guess everyone agrees that if you personally MADE over a hundred of them, it’s no longer a handmade object, right? it’s something else then, so we don’t know what to call it. but maybe we should, because (as i’ve mentioned about 3 times by now) i wrote, drew, recorded, personally printed it EIGHTY THOUSAND TIMES and then hand assembled each one.

the psychology here is that “handmade” = scarcity; that you are buying ONE OF ONLY A VERY SMALL AMOUNT. that’s collector shit, that’s a fetish deal. is it that it’s handmade, or that you’re part of a small secret club? come on, be honest. what defines that? because i printed 72 different separations to make this book. that means, on average, that each page of the thing was run through the risograph 9 separate and distinct times (and at least once for the silver). that plus the folding, collating, stapling, sourcing and hauling around the paper, ordering ink and plates and supplies, stuffing each cd into a sleeve and gluing it in, never mind writing drawing and printing the thing. i mean, come on.

anyone who says this isn’t handmade because there’s more than 50 of them can, in this case, go fuck themselves.

TOMORROW

recidivist vol IV up for sale tomorrow, on this site and at lamano21.com.

for real. look.
–z.

 

IMG_1607-768x1024

 

for real.

–z

RECIDIVIST 4: done.

as of about 3 am last night.

done

 

3 am the previous night was folding and collating by hand, at the kitchen table, just like the good old days.

cripes

and the day before that was doing the final silver pass (with, as always, my good pal clint).

printing_R4_1563

got 60 copies for the Rain Taxi book fest, which i’ll be doing a talk at with my awesome pal Anders Nilsen from 2:30-3 today.

i’ll put it up for sale on the site next week, after i get some sleep. but i’ll tell you one thing: it is the strangest…object i’ve ever made. and that’s saying something. it is really and truly bonkers. i just finished it and it already feels like an artifact. every goddamn one of them is different (and the same).

i’m very proud of it. whatever it is i was trying to pull off, i believe i pulled it off.

more soon.

–zak

ALMOST DONE: LA MANO HISTORY PART 5

since this is the post about the last 2 releases on La Mano, one would think that, after 12 months and 10,000 words (and counting), this would be the final installment. but, nope: there’s one more after this, leading up to some site revamping (including my taking down the “sale” prices, so take advantage of my sluggishness before its too late) and the release of Recidivist  volume 4. anyway, what we have here are the last 2 La Mano releases, from 2011 and 2012 respectively.

i know i said the last thing was the crown jewel of La Mano, but this next one is too:

LMOO7: THE KIM DEITCH FILES

kim2

so, one time (in the mid nineties i guess?) when i was aimlessly wandering around and crashing on floors (and in bookstores) in NYC, i walked by some fancy-pantsy art gallery, and the doors were open and there looked to be a pretty serious art opening going on inside. i learned very early that art openings mean FREE FOOD and maybe booze, so i went in. i was really surprised to discover that it was a Robert Williams opening (also, free food); there was film crew there and all kinds of stuff. and i think he’s a great painter & cartoonist, so i was happy in a couple of ways.

I’m walking around, looking at the stuff. and i turn my head and there’s a knot of people and one of them looks like Kim Deitch. and i think “HOLY SHIT”. and even though i’ve had a few drinks i still walk up, real nervously, and sit there in a fanboy sweat until, finally, the woman with him (who now know to be his wife pam) says “uh, kim; i think this guy wants to talk to you.” and i say yeah, but “ARE YOU KIM DEITCH?!”

sure it’s embarrassing, but who wouldn’t. i mean, Robt Williams is great, but this is KIM FUCKING DEITCH.

so i talked to him a bit and he was nice and i even gave him one of my comics.

strangely, after that we became friends. i was in Low in those days, so we were going through and playing NYC at least once or twice a year, and i’d give a Kim a ring and he’d invite me over and show me what he was working on and we’d just hang out. and every time, it was pretty wonderful; not only that i got to see and paw over whatever he was working on, but just to witness the guy’s dedication and work ethic. and aside from that, he’s a really… generous guy. i don’t know how else to put it. generous of spirit. great stories, a lot of good advice about how to keep doing this comics thing.

Kim seems to be one of those guys: within comics, his body of work inspires considerable awe, with good reason. he’s slowly created this puzzle, this ongoing world that is constantly expanding. there’s nothing else like it. and, after a while, i thought it was sort of criminal that i was one of the only people seeing this whole other part of his work– these pencilled “story” pages that were 100% Kim, but completely different from what people “know” of his work. and so i pitched it to Kim and he said okay.

i cannot describe how honored i am that Kim did this with me. and i also cannot say how proud i am of the way this particular project ended up, in both its forms.

but this one, it was a hard lesson. and kind of a depressing one. look at this photo, circa december 2013:

kim

those are unsold Deitch Files. this is not how things should be.

and look– it sold just fine. enough to make its money back and send Kim a couple ok checks; and for the people who love Kim’s work, i think they are all, to the one, happy i/we did this and happy with the result.

but on this one, i finally thought i’d GOT IT RIGHT: a smaller edition, 300ish of the “regular” and 110 of the “deluxe”. i honestly thought these would be sold out in 4 months. because it’s KIM DEITCH. he is a MASTER CARTOONIST. don’t ask me, ask Dan Clowes (i did, and he sent me a nice quote for the folio), ask Chris Ware (he bought a deluxe version from me), ask Crumb, ask Jaime Hernandez, ask Sammy Harkham for pete’s sakes…anyone who loves comics. 400 of these? they should sell in a heartbeat.

and, they didn’t. you know what that means? that means something is wrong. it sure as heck isn’t Kim’s work, and it’s not the folio i put out, because the former is top of the heap art with a capital A, and the latter is a pretty beautiful, hand printed and assembled expression of the former. so what the heck is going on here?

again, it sold pretty ok, and both Kim and myself are good with it, for all the reason mentioned above.

a big part of this sale/ history was to try and draw some attention to a couple La Mano things that i feel didn’t get the attention they deserve. #1 on that list would be the Deitch Files. but maybe that’s just the world we live in, you know? and that, folks, is the part of this that depresses me.

Kim’s body of work is an american fucking treasure.

 

LM008: SAMMY THE MOUSE BOOK 1

sammy3

this one, too, is the culmination of everything.

Sammy The Mouse was the thing i decided to do after Recidivist #3. i wanted to do Tintin, not Waiting for Godot. and i toyed with the idea of doing Sammy as a pamphlet comic, on La Mano. small, cheap, 2 colors. but at that point i knew what it took to make and sell and distribute etc etc a comic, and the thought of all that filled me with dread. i just wanted to MAKE the comic, and let someone else deal with all the other stuff. someone GOOD at it.

and then i heard about the Ignatz line, being administered by an italian cartoonist named Igort, published simultaneously in 6 languages (and by Fantagraphics here in the US). 2 colors. gorgeous format. in the company of some astounding cartoonists. i pitched it and Igort took it. only thing is, like a lot of awesome, beautiful ideas, the timing was bad, or something. i don’t know what because the quality of that line overall was fantastic, but by the time the first issue of Sammy came out, all but 2 of the international publishers had jumped ship. and by the time i did issue 3, the writing was clearly on the wall. sad, it was a beautiful experiment.

but the question for me was: what now?

so, this was it: if i was ever going to do a book of my own stuff, fully printed etc etc by me, this was it. i had to do it.

anly problem was, but this time La Mano was not only broke, it was in the hole. and i’d learned some things. the sad truth is that my idea of “i’ll have my own printing press, so everything will be CHEAP” was not the reality i’d hoped it would be. i’ll say this now, because this is the place to do so– after i’d priced everything on my little book, doing everything myself, it was still more per book than quotes from Asia. JUST FOR MATERIALS, that’s without paying myself to print it. and this is me buying paper at 1/2 off closeout rates. rather than go into a long anti-capitalist screed here (which is actually what this situation warrants), i just want you to take a moment to think about that (i’ve certainly spent MANY moments with it). to me, that is a really chilling situation.

so, i’d heard about Kickstarter, and thought i’d give it a shot. and, thanks to a lot of folks, it worked out. i could try doing this thing without going into crazy debt. so i did.

pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. i’ve described printing on other books as nightmarish, and at the risk of sounding like the little boy who cried wolf, i can say with great conviction that all the other La Mano printing “nightmares” were like gentle naps compared to Sammy.

i honestly thought the machine was trying to kill me. i developed a pavlovian fear of my press: the thought of turning it on sent me into panic mode. because every damn time i turned it on something went haywire.

press

and i will also say with full conviction that there is nothing i have done in my life that is as frustrating as…when things aren’t going right, printing. there was not 2 weeks that went by where i did not find myself so angry and frustrated that i was just… broken. so angry i’d throw a trash can across the room. so angry that i was crying, because there was nothing to smash with my fists. now, you might say to yourself “SOUNDS LIKE YOU GOT SOME OTHER ISSUES GOING ON THERE, SONNY JIM”, and you could be right, but generally, NOT THESE ONES. i do not scream and cry and throw shit in my normal life, at all. but here i was, doing it on a regular basis, on a book that i could not screw up. because people had already paid for it.

there’s plenty of reasons for this but again, i’ll spare you the details (except for the ones that are funny). basically, even after all this time i was still an inexperienced printer. and also, i bought the “new” press for $500, and as it turns out, there were damn good reasons it was that cheap. the previous owners had run the thing into the dirt. so every time something went wrong, i would assume i was doing something that made the machine, say, start to pull sheets up into it, creating a pulpy mess that would take an hour to clean up and then do it again. it was my inexperience. but sometimes it WASN’T that, and there was something out of whack with the press. the problem was, i never knew which was which, for certain. and every time i thought it was one thing, it was the other. so, honestly– it took me 6 months of this shit to print that book.

and also, there was this: due to a pagination program glitch, 2 of my 14 signatures ended up being printed incorrectly (and i was too furious to notice it. TWICE): which means 1/7th of the book’s paper stock was gone. which would normally just be a NORMAL $$$ suck catastrophe, but the bigger problem was this: since i’d purchased all my stock at Twin Cities Paper, a) i’d bought everything they had and b) it was, again, a stock that had been discontinued. there WAS no more. actually i scoured the internet and found ONE PLACE, somewhere in ohio i think, that had a case of it, but that still didn’t make up for what i’d lost. so then i had to find a stock that looked close to what i’d been using, and that’s when the piano dropped: since i’d purchased stuff exclusively at TCP, i had no idea what paper cost “normally”. and i was shocked.

i could keep going, but i won’t. i will say that it put a fear of the press into me that i still have not shaken entirely. and when it was over, i could see that it…was not good for me; coming home to my wife and kids covered in ink and so pissed off i could barely speak  for the remainder of the evening on a semi-regular basis…don’t matter the hows or whys of it, it’s just not how i want to be. and this, mind you, is after i’d been stone cold sober for some years. booze or printers ink, something that does that to your life can’t be good. and booze did not make me scream and cry and throw shit. i was a sultry, witty, sophisticated and charismatic drinker.

eventually, though, it got done. spent the Kickstarter $ and then some.

and i thought “good god: some guy writes, draws and publishes his own work, THEN DOES ALL THE PRODUCTION AND PRINTS THE WHOLE THING HIMSELF?”. that’s amazing. I think it’s amazing– who’s ever seen a book like that? i thought it was a real interesting thing; it’s a “mass produced” object, but still sort of follows the ideas of a zine, or some other hand made object. to me, that was (and is) a really cool idea.

but guess what– putting the book out at the table, at shows or whatever, you know what it looked like?

it just looked like a regular book that was…not normal; not what people are used to. it DOES feel like something somebody MADE, some of the printing is wonky as hell, and its just… not what people are expecting when the pick up a perfect-bound “trade paperback”. in short, it weirded people out. and i’d explain to them what it is and all that and they generally just looked at me like a crazy person. there’s a story in that book beyond the story in that book, and it takes some digging beyond the face of it to find to what that story is. And some folks were interested, but for the most part…as i said, it just looked like a normal book, but “off”, somehow.

and i’m not really the type to go “sell” that story, to say “look what i did, isn’t that special!?!”

somebody once made the comparison to the whole “artisan bread” deal– what the heck is going on with these, weird, lumpy, craggy looking things? where is my SLICED LOAF OF BREAD TO MAKE A PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH WITH?

sammy

but, you know– that shit sometimes tastes real good.

and, one more interesting thing: the price point. i’ve always been depressed by the psychology of selling stuff: why is it $13.95 and not $14? because it’s a time-honored tradition of marketing and sales. it tricks your brain into thinking $13 instead of $14. we’re so used to it that it barely even registers. but, again, it’s just a slight of hand that, when you think about it, is really patronizing and unnecessary if you respect whoever’s buying your “product”. from the first La Mano release, i decided i wasn’t ever going to do that. it’s gonna be $13, or it’s $14. and i thought: cheap. who the heck doesn’t like cheap?

but Sammy was a 2-color perfect bound “Graphic Novel”, 104 pages, printed by the author. and it was $14. 104 page “graphic Novels” routinely sell for $16-$20. and i thought making it cheaper than that would be a cool thing, an act of good faith for all involved.

i hate to say it, but our brains are hard-wired for capitalism, and its a tricky thing to navigate. price something too high and it’s snooty and insulting. price it too LOW, and…it’s suspicious. it really is. my story about that is the Wipers CD box set that came out some years ago: first 3 Wipers records, with extra tracks. Greg Sage (the main Wipers guy) himself released it, and it was like the Sammy book– it looked like somebody without design/ marketing chops put it together…it looked odd. like some weirdo put it together. and it was stupid cheap, $18 or something. i remember picking it up at the record shop, then some part of me thought $18 for all these? looks weird. this must be some kind of fly by night scam deal, something must be dodgy here.

and then i got home and thought what the hell is wrong with me?

and eventually i went back and picked it up, and god i can’t tell you how i treasure that stuff. but yeah, the unexpectedly low price made me question the quality of it.

and i think that’s the case with the Sammy book: low price plus weird printing plus rough around the edges? with a zine, that’s part of the territory, part of the charm. a book, not so much.

i wasn’t thinking about any of this when i made it, of course. i just thought it was cool, and that that’d show through. and i’m not crying about it now. i’m just saying: it’s interesting. and it didn’t sell shit poorly or anything: it did ok.

oh yeah: the work? Sammy is now halfway completed. book 2 was released by may pal Tom K via Uncivilized books. somebody else printed it, which was great. i think it’s real good stuff.

the fact that i’m only halfway through the completed work, and 7 years have gone by…that is depressing. but fuck it, i’m not getting into that now.

next one is the wrap up.

–z.

 

THE DREAM IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE DREAM

for the past week, i’ve been working like a maniac to get 20 or 30 copies of the new Recidivist done for SPX; and if nothing went seriously wrong, i was on track to do it. up until about 2 hours ago it was going to be 48 hours of nuts, but still doable. then something went wrong. then another thing. nothing serious, but enough to throw out the bathwater (the baby is fine). but look at me– i’m calm and collected. maybe even relieved. being an adult is great.

so, no books for SPX. that’s that. i was starting to do some dumb shit to hit that deadline, anyway. that’s the bad news. the good news is, this thing will be done and done and done by the end of the month. at which point you can order it from me.

did i say 8 colors? try TEN. i’ll put up a video, or something.

i have never seen anything like this thing i put together. both content and production wise, it is something else entirely. i hope it doesn’t make people cry.

–z.