To boldly go where no film blogger has gone before (Feedback wanted!)

Listen up, Negative Space travelers: I need to hear what you think. This week I’m posting three (!) new cartoons (Sparky Goes To Hollywood being the first), and I’ve got a few more in the sketching stage. If you like the sound of that, then this post is for you…

When I posted my first film-related cartoon on the 1st of January this year, I had no idea I’d still be drawing them four months later. These little doodles have turned out to be a very satisfying form of criticism for me. The response so far has been more than positive (both online and in private) and after encouraging words by the likes of Jim Emerson, Matt Seitz, Dennis Cozzalio, Andy Horbal, The Shamus alias That Little Round-Headed Boy and Girish Shambu, I’m seriously getting into the swing of it.

A while ago, 24Lies contributor Bob Cumbow half-jokingly remarked, “Once you have done enough of them, I expect you to publish these cartoons in a book, which I will happily buy for myself and several of my friends.” For someone with a background in graphics, this seemed a tantalizing prospect, albeit a little far-fetched. You just don’t publish and distribute a book that easily. Or do you?

Apparantly, one does. Not long after Bob’s email, I discovered the Print On Demand service Lulu.com, and it dawned on me: I could actually do this. The digital age has finally made it possible. With a little effort, I can self-publish a book – paperback, hardcover, glued or binded – sell it online and have it shipped automatically to anywhere in the world. I wouldn’t have to sell my soul for it, and I’d still own the copyrights. Better yet: publishing won’t cost me a penny–not even if nobody would buy it.

Can you tell I’m excited? πŸ™‚

So there it is: my statement of purpose for 2007. I’m going to continue posting one cartoon a week in the image resolution you’ve grown accustomed to. By the end of the year I’ll have 52 of them. The cartoons will then be collected in bookform (Negative Space Year One?) and printed in their original high-res, full-color glory. I may even decide to include my celluloid fantasia Nighthawks, a 24LiesASecond essay not unlike a cartoon stretched to short story length. As an online publication, Nighthawks suffered from being too long and dense to read on a computer screen, but it might blossom as part of a book.

My questions for you are: Would you be interested in buying this book? If so, would you go for the hardcover coffeetable-version or the cheap pulpy pocket version? Would you want it to come out in time for Christmas? And now we’re at it: Is any of you interested in other publications of this kind? (An anthology of 24LiesASecond essays, for example.)

Perhaps it’s time for us bloggers to reach out beyond cyberspace. What do you think: Is print the final frontier, or an evolutionary step back? See you in the comment section (or drop me an email, if you’re shy)!

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11 Responses to To boldly go where no film blogger has gone before (Feedback wanted!)

  1. bigeyedeer says:

    Awesome idea, Peet. Very interesting info indeed… and it’s even better to have a goal at the end of it all. I was also thinking of shifting it all to a separate wedsite, my own domain, and starting a bit of advertising. Maybe gift cards featuring cartoons. You know, the whole Cafe Press thing. πŸ™‚

    Anyway, keep up the momentum… onwards and upwards! πŸ™‚

    cheers

  2. the shamus says:

    Excellent idea. I’m thinking this is what Dennis and all of us need to do: Turn our blogs into books. Sign me up, probably for the cheap pulpy one.

  3. bigeyedeer says:

    Oh yeah, cheap and pulpy all the way. πŸ™‚ I think cartoon books are much better-suited to a low-value book you can throw around, crease up while reading in bed, lend to your friends and not get worried about the condition, and – dare I say it – leave in the loo for people to read while nature calls. hehe

  4. Andy H. says:

    I would certainly be interested in buying this book, and given a choice I’d probably opt for cheap and pulpy being as I’m usually broke, broke, broke!

    Perhaps it’s time for us bloggers to reach out beyond cyberspace. What do you think: Is print the final frontier, or an evolutionary step back?

    I’d love to comment on this, but I’m afraid I’m still trying to figure out my position on the matter. This is something I’ve been thinking about since at least December when I decided to follow through on my long-nascent ambition to create a zine. I am still going to do this, but I’m lately leaning towards a very limited print run of only 5 or 6 copies because I’m having trouble convincing myself that my desire to produce something physical isn’t largely motivated simply by vanity…

    As far as the future of “cartoon film criticism” goes, whether it be on the web, in print, or both: I like what you’re doing Peet and I think you should let these weekly cartoons take you wherever they will. But I also think that this is fertile ground that some of the rest of us should think about digging into. I’d love to work with you, Peet, or anyone else with a talent for drawing on using the paneled cartoon/comic/graphic novel format to try to do something really, truly different with film crit. Maybe I’m a few years away from being able to tackle a project like this, but it seems to me that this might be a way to actually merge the critic’s text with the stuff of the film itself: text written into a panel of graphic art side by side with stills from the film. Schematics/diagrams imposed over screengrabs. Notes on the film on the film. It also might be a way to make “difficult” or “dry” academic film studies more interesting/lively/palatable to the casual movie buff. I’m still thinking about it, but I definitely do think there’s a lot of potential in this line of thought…

    Your cartoons are great in and of themselves, but I hope that they’re also serving to open the doors to a whole world of new ideas. At worst you’re producing funny, original art/cultural commentary, at best you’re a veritable film crit pioneer!

  5. Peet says:

    Wow, great feedback guys! Keep it coming!

    To be honest: I don’t know how “cheap” the pulpy version would be exactly; we’re still talking about full-color printing, I’m afraid. But as an alternative I can always offer a downloadable PDF-version that customers with small budgets can print out for themselves.

    Andy:
    Vanity isn’t such a bad thing if it gives you the impetus to create something. As long as what you’re trying to accomplish isn’t lazy or halfhearted, it should be worth pursuing. To a certain extend, every artist thrives on vanity. The Print On Demand model reminded me of your plans for a zine, and I thought it might be useful to that end (Lulu’s “comic” format seems especially appropriate). But this option might not be “underground” enough for you… πŸ˜‰

    I see what you’re getting at with the potential of graphic criticism, and I’ll keep your comments in mind for the future. For now, you may want to check out Scott McCloud’s graphic novel “Understanding Comics” (if you haven’t already), which proves just how insightful the comic medium can be as an educational / critical tool. It’d be a nightmare to clear all the rights to these screengrabs, though…

    Bigeyedeer / Phil:
    Yes, I was also looking at what Jennifer Shiman is doing with her angryalien.com store. Mugs, T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, spaghetti tanks, tote bags, mouse pads, journals, postcards: all via CafΓ©press.com! When it comes to P.O.D. books, though, they don’t offer as wide a variety as Lulu-com.
    By the way: You can be sure I’d be the first in line to buy your cartoon book!

  6. Syb says:

    Peet,
    As I already said a while ago, great idea! I would certainly buy a copy of your book, I think a paperback version is the best for your cartoons.

  7. the shamus says:

    Andy, you should check out the work of Portland’s Mike Russell, who has pioneered film and cartooning mixes for the Oregon newspaper he works at, as well as his web site.

  8. Bob Cumbow says:

    I am thrilled to have played a part in this. I would order several and would opt for a nice handy paperback edition rather than a coffee-table book.

  9. Cat says:

    I think this is a great step for you and I bet you’re very, very excited about this idea.

    However, for me I only ever buy novels or factual books, so in all honesty, I just don’t have the money or reason to buy it and I don’t know that many people beyond cyberspace that are interested enough in film and I could gift it to them.

    Whilst I think that it’s great you’re getting your own book [can you imagine, your own book?!], I don’t think I would be buying it.

    But I’ll at least help you promote it on my blog/forums. πŸ™‚

  10. Peet says:

    Don’t feel obligated whatsoever, Cat! Just testing the waters here. I’ll let you know when to start your campaign! πŸ˜‰

    A word to the rest of you: I received lots of support so far, mostly by email, so it looks like this project is officially a go!

  11. Cat says:

    it looks like this project is officially a go!

    Glad to hear it! πŸ˜€

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