Wednesday, September 15, 2004


A few days ago, I received in the mail a flat envelope from Kitchener Ontario. There was an attractive little aardvark logo next to the return address, and inside was a copy of Cerebus 168, signed by Dave Sim and (I think – its hard to read) Gerard, a flier advertising the Cerebus trade paperbacks, and a typeset letter (also signed by Sim). I was thrilled.

This was the result of writing a letter and mailing it, followings Sim’s offer to send a free comic (signed, if requested) free to anyone who would do so. I heard about this via Neil Gaiman's Journal, as, apparently, did a host of other people. This was stated at the outset to be an experiment, the purpose of which was to ascertain whether (i.e. prove that) people in this computer age won’t take the extra time to write letters via mail. The hell you say! I wrote mine the first day I heard about it.

I am extremely grateful to Mr. Sim for this small generous act, and am elated out of proportion to the size of the gift. This was a great idea on his part, and reinforces my feeling that he is a marketing genius. I own the “Phone books”1-6 and 8, and have wanted to complete the set, and finish reading the saga. This small act, which didn’t cost him very much, made it far more likely that I will act on this impulse sooner rather than later. In the “Cerebus Guide to Self Publishing” (an extremely interesting document I haven’t seen referenced a lot lately, even though many of its points are just as applicable today as when it was initially published), Sim spends some time talking about how to attract attention at conventions, and how to market a comic out of the gate, and if this was another ploy, I can see how it works. I just wanted to note that I was surprised at how positive my reaction was to just getting a signed comic in the mail for free. Thanks, Dave.

I found the accompanying letter very funny, and quite intriguing. Well, let me just post the letter, and then comment:

“30 August 04

“Dear Sneaky Neil People:

“Having gone to the mailbox this morning only to find only James Turner’s as-yet unpublished, soon-to-be-self-published computer comic book, I, Librarian, and Nihil Obstat (which can be viewed at which he had sent me a few pages from and which, because I asked nicely, he has now printed out all 62 pages to date for me to comment on)(and you thought you had a good job) and a very nice letter from Sgt. Brian L. Moore accompanying a copy of James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen from 1922 because he really thought I should read it and because I sent him a copy of Guys. Two hour later there was one inquiry about the free signed comic book from a gentleman in England.

“And I thought, Well, it’s finally subsided to nothing, after last week subsiding to the point where I could open all of the inquiries in a half-hour or so, type the form letter, print it out, sign it and get on with my other work (mostly the Cerebus Archive). So, I actually gathered up all of the form letters to date and faxed them to Neil for his dining and dancing pleasure (specifying which ones had already gone out, and which hadn’t so he wouldn’t give anything away before the intended recipients read them) and prepared to “turn the page” on the Blog Plug That Just Wouldn’t Stop. Then I went to the post office after lunch and there were another 60 Inquiries. I made that funny High-pitched “MMMMM!!” noise that Jerome “Curly” Howard used to make in the Three Stooges.

“Took me an hour to open those and – just now realized the post office closes in twenty minutes! Raced down there to stay ahead of the deluge and…the box was empty. “MMMMM!!” Is it any wonder that they call you The Sneaky Neil People?!

“Anyway, this 60 brings the running total to 981. Tomorrow should push us over the 1000 mark. Or it might not happen ‘til next week. Or it may never happen. For such is the existential premise of the Sneaky Neil People – whose every epistulatory outcome is uncertain!


“Dave Sim”

I found the letter amusing in tone (a sort of “gosh darn it, thems there folks got me” bemusement), with a light undertone insidiously implying that the letters really “don’t count” in the experiment because we’re writing intentionally to prove him wrong. Well, I don’t feel very sneaky…just happy to get this nice signed comic and amusing letter.

The main point of interest for me, however, was that the letter reads like the latest of a series, and I am entering in the middle of the “Sneaky Neil Saga.” I would be love to read the other letters! Since the letter implies that he has sent copies of all letters to Neil (presumably Gaiman), who, again, has a blog, I wrote Mr. Gaiman yesterday asking:

“Would you consider (with Mr. Sim’s permission as needed) posting these to your site? I feel like I have one sliver of an ongoing conversation, and would like to hear the whole thing.”

So, maybe he will, which would be cool. Meanwhile, this offer does not (as far as I know) have a time limit so it is not too late to get your cool free signed comic, and prove that civilization is not crumbling at the same time. My letter was handwritten, not typed (he says in a defiant tone). So hop on the bandwagon, and send your written and mailed request to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674 Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Tell em’ Todd sencha’


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