Quebecor’s Brooklyn Branch

The Vagabonds #1
The Vagabonds #1

Wow, what a week. Last Tuesday, June 17th, I was expecting 75 advance copies of my new book, The Vagabonds (literally hot off the presses) from Quebecor, my Canadian printer. I needed the books for two much-anticipated comics-related events: a group signing at Jim Hanley’s Universe on June 18th, and the 2nd Annual Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art (MoCCA) show on June 22nd. I had been looking forward to MoCCA for months, excited about debuting my first new book in almost two years in its vibrant creative atmosphere.

The PDFs of the blue-lines has been approved, the books were successfully printed and the box was shipped out on Tuesday, June 17th, for overnight delivery on the 18th. Or so I thought. When I finally got the FedEx tracking numbers from Quebecor, I was horrified to see that the comics had been shipped out International Economy — a three-day trip! By the time I realized their error late on Tuesday night, it was too late to have the shipment “upgraded” to overnight delivery. Quebecor was closed and the box was sitting on a ramp somewhere in Mirabel, Quebec. And so the Hanley’s event went by the boards. I was angry, I felt victimized by Quebecor’s carelessness, but I wasn’t devastated. Life goes on.

On Thursday the 19th, the books arrived (a day “early,” for Economy shipping), and I was relieved to at least have them in my hands. It was thrilling to take that first copy off the pile and revel in the finished product. The green ink on cream paper effect turned out nicer than I could have hoped and I was excited to share the book with the world on Sunday at MoCCA. Little did I know what was still in store…

Late Friday night, my wife Sari & I were sitting around, talking about the weekend’s upcoming events. I was idly flipping through my new comic, and took out a few copies for sharing with fellow cartoonists and family members. I happened to flip through one a little down the pile and noticed a strange glitch: the middle eight pages — two folios — were duplicates of other pages in the book. I chuckled at this aberration and showed it to Sari, taking out the next book to make sure it hadn’t happened there as well. Shit! That one was screwed up too! And so was the next, and the next, and so on and on. When all was said and done, I was left with 15 good copies and 60 disasters, strewn about my feet. Given the day and time, there was no way to get more copies shipped from Quebecor (assuming the other books weren’t in a similar condition). I was completely in shock. What had I done to deserve this? I wondered if a nonexistent god that I didn’t believe in was punishing me for my heresy and hubris.

After a few frantic calls to Alternative Comics publisher Jeff Mason and comics cohorts and Nick Bertozzi, and moping around for a while, the germ of a crazy idea came into my head. It was the only way I knew to salvage my pride and regain a feeling of self-determination. I couldn’t let this tragedy defeat me.

First thing the next day I went to my computer and created new folios of the missing pages from my original files. With Sari in tow, I set off for the new Brooklyn-area Kinko’s. It was a rainy, miserable day, perfectly capturing my mood. But I was determined to persevere. There were still a couple of roadblocks ahead, but with Sari’s help, I printed out the new folios, figured out how to line them up on the copier to match them back to front, and produced 50 copies of the eight “new” pages. I was even able to match the cream-colored paper (although of course I couldn’t print them in green ink). Then it was just a matter of trimming the pages to fit, folding and inserting them. Of course this meant unstapling all the books, removing the offending folios, inserting the new pages just so, and using a long-reach stapler to put the books back together. Altogether it was an eight-hour process, but after some aborted attempts, I had 50 passable copies of my comic. If you didn’t look at them too carefully, they looked pretty darn good! Sure, it was another miserable day spent sweating in a Kinko’s, but I had reclaimed my agency, and most importantly, created enough “product” to get me through MoCCA.

Well, Sunday came and went and through sales, trades and giveaways, I distributed all 65 copies (the original 15 and the 50 “artist’s galleys”). My tale of woe garnered me some much-needed sympathy and quite a few similar stories. Unfortunately, it seems that Quebecor has made quite an art out of screwing up small press comics. Ironically, most people were happy to have the reassembled books; it seems that folks liked the idea that their copy wasn’t mass-produced so much as hand-assembled —”artist’s books,” if you like. And I had the satisfaction of personally handing a couple of leftover bad copies to the Quebecor printer’s rep, who’d come down to New York for the show.

Of course, first thing Monday morning, the day after the show, UPS delivered 100 copies of The Vagabonds, impeccably bound and collated, to my front door. Like I said, what a week.

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