Friday, August 29, 2008

I WANT YOU TO BUY :: Kramer's Ergot #7

OKAY, so one of my favorite cartoonists right now is Sammy Harkham, who you may or may not have met at this year's HeroesCon. I met him, and might as well have been meeting Farrah Fawcett, considering how nervous I was the whole time. I LOVE HIM! But besides being a studly cartoonist, Sammy also edits the preeminent anthology KRAMER'S ERGOT, six volumes of which have come out over the last 8-10 years or so.

THIS FALL WILL SEE the release of Kramer's Ergot #7, which will be published as a 16" x 21" massive tome for $125, filled with a laundry list of great creators, including Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Seth, Kevin Huizenga, Matt Groening, Jaime Hernandez, and a bajillion others. It's crazy. While the book will only be 96 pages--I know, I know, let me FINISH--it's all material created SPECIFICALLY to see print at this size, comparable to the size of old Sundays like Gasoline Alley, etc. This has NEVER BEEN DONE in comics before, and from all accounts some of the work is breathtaking. Imagine what someone with the graphic sense and careful pacing of Dan Clowes could do with a page over 4 times larger than a standard comic page. I'm getting sweaty just thinking about it, and I'm not even that big a Clowes fan. But I AM a big fan of comics, and the thought of pushing into this kind of territory is really exciting to me.

BUT NOT to everybody. A lot of people--maybe even YOU--are put off by the high price point and relatively low page count. Which is totally fine. There are a lot of books that are too expensive to buy at ANY price for some people. But the strange thing is that a lot of people have decided that they need to COMMENT on how expensive the book is, regardless of whether they care of not about what's in the book, whether they'd have EVER bought it, etc. Boring, I know; but on the Internet people have to talk-talk-talk, especially bloggers, even when they pretend to be objective and journalisty. Imagine needing to say something EVERY DAY to an audience you can't see. You can almost forgive these guys for their digital demagoguery.


I have been more vocal in this dumb debate than I normally would be, half because I find it childish for people to complain about art--ignoring art is the best defense against art you don't like. And half because I REALLY AM excited about this book, and want to stick up for it like you would for anything you like. And my excitement was only quadrupled a few days ago when Tom Spurgeon posted this excellent interview with Sammy Harkham about the book, the creators involved, et cetera, rather than flinging opinions out all willy-nilly with little more information than the size and cost of the book. But I'm a fan of Tom Spurgeon too, so maybe I'm just playing favorites.

SO, I say all this NOT to bring this cacophonous kerfuffle into our blog. I am uninterested in hearing what everyone thinks about expensive artsy books--I like the folksy neighborly vibe we have on this blog, and would prefer not to enter into some rejoinder war with anyone. So, if you'd like to be heard, please feel free to post on any of the threads I've linked to above.

THE REAL PROBLEM WITH THIS BOOK for me is all about the retail risk. Kramer's Ergot #7 will be available for much less than $125 on Amazon, possibly as low as $80--how in the world can we compete with that? While I intend to support the book by purchasing it here, I get a fat employee discount, so it's a wash. And while I'd love to order a bajillion, just to shut up the people who say that comic shops will never order such a pricey book, I'd have to defend to Shelton why I spent so much of his money (which is never in surplus anyway) on even a few of such a pricey book.

SO LET'S SAY (pending confirmation from the publisher of what our cost will be) that we offer the book to anyone who special orders it for an even $100. That's 20% off the retail price; a little more than it costs on Amazon, but we throw in the satisfaction of supporting your locally owned and operated comic shop for no additional charge. This will ONLY apply to people who special order the book by posting here or e-mailing me directly--other copies purchased in the store will be at regular price, although stuff like your reserve discount, etc., would still apply. If I don't know you, I may ask for some sort of confirmation, just so we don't end up with a stack of these things unsold if you change your mind later. If you're from out of town and would be mail-ordering the book, it's probably better if you order it directly from the publisher (Buenaventura Press), as it's an oversized package and would add too many weird costs for us.

ANY TAKERS? I really do think this is going to be one of the most talked-about and influential books of the DECADE, a historical event in comic book publishing. I CANNOT STOP USING CAPITAL LETTERS when talking about it.



Andy Mansell said...

Any takers?



Three reasons

1. Kramers Ergot has been for the past half decade the true cutting edge of alternative comics. Are they for everyone-- heck no-- are they for the good of comics as an artist movement? Heck yes!!

2. the talent of Sammy Harkham as an editor. The creators know what is on the line both financially and critically. This is going to be a touch stone for comics in the years a head and Sammy just has the knack of getting the very best of his contributors.

3. The format. Color comics were BORN in this format. The full Sunday page section was the norm for color comics until DC and AA created comic books. It is now considered too expensive, but the results are glorious. If anyone in Etherland (bloggers) want me to bring along one of the Nemo Splendid Sunday collections on Saturday night for the Watchman group, I will be happy to. I doubt any of the contributors to KE7 draw as well as McCay (who else in history could?) but seeing work you may have ignored in a smaller format will leave you astonished by what the big size can do.

Great article Dustin!

thanks for listening.

Seth Peagler said...

Sign me up! Ware, Harkham, Clowes and Huizenga in the same book! Guaranteed good comics. Andy's right about the format; it'll make great art even more enjoyable.

Chris Pitzer said...

I think that's a pretty stand up offer. Well done!

Dan Morris said...

Count me in Dustin. $100 dollars towards the best comics anthology and going towards my local store? That's a great deal if you ask me. This book is going to be the comics event of the year if you ask me. Like you and Andy have both said, this book is going to look gorgeous and show off comics in ways that haven't been seen been seen by readers in years. I'm eagerly looking forward to this book.

Rich Barrett said...

This post was a very good idea. Hmm, I do have a Heroes gift certificate that I have yet to use. That will soften the financial blow a bit.

Sign me up.

Dustin Harbin said...

Wow, I'm impressed! So four PLUS one for me makes FIVE already! Who else? All aboard!

Dan Morris said...
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Dan Morris said...

I just reread the Spurgeon interview, and I hope that the store might get to be a stop on the accompanying tour for this book.

Also for those curious about past volumes, is the store stocked on 4,5, and/or 6?

Shawn Reynolds said...

I'll throw my name in there!

Dan- if I'm not mistaken we have 6, but that's it.

Vee ! said...

I have no qualms with expensive art books. Just Sammy Harkham.

Dustin Harbin said...

Really, Vy? I can't tell if you're kidding or not--did he say something that bugged you in that panel at the convention? I liked him, but different strokes for different folks, as they say.

Vee ! said...

Disclaimer: It's been awhile since I've listened to the panel recording mentioned in my mini-rant below, so I can't really remember who said what. I'm just gonna go with the guilty-by-association rule here.

I listened to the Heroes Con panel on New Art Comics, and almost every single one of those guys rubbed me the wrong way. I respect and appreciate what their work, but throughout the whole discussion, all I kept hearing was them complaining about how people just "don't get what they do."

Dustin Harbin said...

Yeah, they did come off a little bitter, didn't they? But in their defense, Alvin and Dan (the two publishers on the panel) are never far from the poorhouse themselves, and were both having crummy sales at the convention, so were maybe feeling it a little more than normal.

I think those guys have had hard times getting good ole comics stores to carry their stuff successfully--we have trouble selling it too sometimes. And if you go and read some of those comment threads I linked to in my initial post, you can see the kind of unreasoning complaints that this ambitious book was met with, which couldn't have helped their mood much.

Vy, try that Poor Sailor hardcover we've got before you write Sammy off entirely. It's short enough that you could read it in the store if you don't want to spend the money. If that doesn't change your mind, then I'll relent. But I'm so into his stuff lately, he'd need to slap me right across the face for me to take offense at anything.

Vee ! said...

Actually, I've already bought Poor Sailor (from the store, no less). I'll re-read it soon.

bridgit said...

This idea will definitely turn a few heads, which is good. And the price doesn't sound like a bad idea, either. In fact, 96 pages this size makes for 96 prints! And when you think of how much prints normally cost, isn't $100 a pretty bargain? I think when people hear a price that high for an illustrated novel they forget how much effort and talent was put into it, is all.

Do you have other Kramers Ergot issues in the store? And is it the kind of novel you'd need to read from issues 1-7 to appreciate it? I'm constantly finding myself to be so newb at all this indie comic stuff, and not familiar with Kramer's Ergot. But I really enjoyed reading Poor Sailor, and adding Harkham's name to all this comics news buzz is making me wanna read what's up.

Dustin Harbin said...

We have volume 6, Bridgit.

Kramer's is not at all a must-have-them-all type of book. I like having them all (except I don't have 1 & 2) because I like to think of each new one in terms of the series as a whole, but that's just cos I'm a big fat nerd.

#6 was not my favorite one, although there are some really primo stories in there. But I'm not as hip to the more abstract stuff as some people, and prefer the more (clearly) narrative stuff.

WHICH IS WHY I'm super excited about #7--from everything I've heard, this one is MOSTLY narrative, and the contributor list really is a who's who of up-and-comers and established giants of comics. I think Kramer's #7 is going to be a real watershed moment in comics, both for its format and content.

I'm sorry, I'm just so excited.

Robert Ullman said...
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Dustin Harbin said...

Er, family blog, Rob! We don't generally talk in the kind of "slurpy" language you're using. I'll chalk it up to your intense passion.

While it is harder for me to get the more abstract stuff, I have to say I dig it sometimes in earlier volumes (especially #4) for the breathing space it gives between other, more narrative stories. I can look at it and kind of decide how deep I want to get into a particular page. For instance, at first I didn't care for the C.F. story in #4 (or #5, I can't remember), but I tried a little harder and I'd actually call myself a fan of his now. I LOVE Powr Mastrs, although it definitely is not the normal reading experience.

Robert Ullman said...

Good lord, I truly am an idiot, aren't I? I'm my daughter's first words aren't of the four letter variety, I'll be amazed. My sincere apologies.

Here's my previous post, minus the salty language!:

I'm glad you mentioned your preference for the narrative stuff, D, cause I'd be a little hesitant to share my philistine opinions otherwise.

I'm actually not in, really not into...the Fort Thunder, Picturebox, Panteresque, whatever you want to call it, aesthetic of a lot of the stuff I've seen in previous Kramer's volumes (which is why I don't own a single one). Don't get me wrong...I do enjoy and really dig some of that so-called naive stuff (Teratiod Heights comes to mind), but I like it in the same way I like looking at the comics I used to draw in their notebooks in study hall. Why the comics elite have lined up to heap such praise of some of these guys frankly baffles me. This country mouse just can't see it.

That said, I'm really curious, if just a smidge wary, of the new Kramer's. I reeeeealy want to like it! Full of lush beautiful pages of comics by Clowes, Huizenga, Hernandez? Awesome. Sign me up!

Giant pages of random pen scrawlings? No thankee.

Guess I'll just have to wait and see.

looka said...

Dustin, I knew this would be written by you, strrrraight from the first paragraph.
And saing this, it could also be written by me with the "jump the fence (and over it)" voice!!!

Second AND:
Even if I couldn't never ever afford this book or books that do the same, wild thing in terms of being A A A A W W W W E E E E E S O M M M M E E E in the the size of the love for what they present and the artistic quality, I am so TOTALLY for it.

Because comics need that, they really do. And so what if I don't like it? It's not radioactive or venomous, or a political force threatening to murder you.
IT'S A wonderful, original COMIC-BOOK!

This positive madness is what I have been waiting for and it is good to me.

AND, third one, I have never been to your store, but this is why I like it from afar! A 100$ dollar offer, very SUPER NICE of you Heros people. My only grief is that I'm not anywhere close by to order it with you!

Helmut Newtons Sumo, a big book among photo books, who have the temperament of being very big by standard, costs around 9500 coins. Euros that is.

Andy Mansell said...


KE 1-3 are nowhere to be found, but the books really came into their own with #4.

This is the best way I can describe KE# 4-5-6: they are like a trip to a modern art museum. Some things you will love, some things will leave you baffled..
What makes them better than a modern art museum, is this:
Yes you've paid a fairly high price, but you can go back and re-visit it on your own time table.
With each KE, I was initially disappointed.. the hype demanded that I expect more.
In the past few days after the burn-out I experience from the Discussion groups-- I read Watchmen 3 times cover to cover, I turned to these three books and I am stunned by how good they are.

To make a short story long... KE4-6 belong in every serious collection. You will revisit them often in the years to come.
KE#7-- promises to be more about traditional narrative-- immediateley accessible and more entertaining on first reading-- but in a truly dynamic format.

Yes, you may blanche at the cost at first, but again, I would be willing to bet it is a book you will revisit several times in the years to come.

KE#4 is without a doubt the best-- or is it just the one I've had the longest and reread the most often (?). You should be able to find it along with KE5 on Amazon used.

For anyone-- next time you are in the store, bring in a cup of coffee-- hey use a coaster!!-- and take a 15 minute look through KE#6. I think the description above will be on target.

Regardless-- thanks for listening!!

Dustin Harbin said...

Looka--you rock as usual. I love your moxie, kid! Next time you're in the States, be sure and look us up, and you can experience things IN PERSON.

Andy--I think you've summed it up really well with the idea that Kramer's is a kind of "living" book. I definitely was more turned on by 4 and 5, but I find myself picking up #6 from time to time, and I ALWAYS find something new there. Part of it is the awesome book design on that one--it's hard not to pick up.

looka said...

Oh, thanks!
I'm just a flake with a loose mouth and a big heart.

And you're the one from team HEROES (to spell right this time)!