Dave & Steve Kick Off 2011!
Orphans, Teachers, & Skating With Ink
First of all—HAPPY NEW YEAR, one and all! Here’s hoping 2011 is sweeter by far than 2010 was.
I’d intended to open this year with a list of everything I’d done here on Myrant alone, but—well, fuck that. It’s all here, accessible to everyone everywhere for free, 24 hours a day.
There’s a lot that went up in 2010, including my experiment with online serialized original comix (“King of Monster Isle”), multiple and in-depth serialized essays on comics history, movies, literary mash-ups, racism and hate movies, and much, much more.
A major part of the spring and early summer went toward struggling to comprehend what had happened to my late friend Steve Perry, and providing the only venue for Steve‘s own account of his final year of life, which frankly derailed my passion for blogging for a time. But I’ve been back at it, daily, since September, and intend to continue daily in 2011.
I can’t say I’ll miss much of 2010. It was a tough year, and tougher by far for many friends and loved ones, both those who survived 2010 and those, sadly, who did not. Here’s looking forward to 2011!
I must say the Center for Cartoon Studies was (along with life with Marge, and my now-adult children) the best thing about 2010, and I look forward to the new year at CCS. I’ve got my most demanding teaching schedule ever in the semester ahead, and high hopes for our senior class (with whom I’ll be working at last, co-teaching Senior Thesis with the great Alec Longstreth) and what lies ahead for everyone at CCS.
The first to end was the three-year+ local retail venue at the Quechee Gorge Village Antique Mall, where I’d sold over the three years literally thousands of items: CCS student and alumni comix and minicomics, my own (signed) comics, graphic novels, and books, vintage collectible comics and comix, DVDs, videos, original art, books, and all manner of weird shit.
I started it years ago in the hopes CCS or the students would take it over, but that never happened; in the meantime, local venues in White River Junction VT (home of CCS) have sprung up, offering the students in-town retail opportunities to sell their work to the public just by racking it, which prompted my decision to close up shop at the end of 2010.
By 4 PM, the booth was empty once and for all of anything to do with moi or CCS, and I’d broom-swept the space to ensure it was clean and ready for the next dealer to come along. It was a good three years, but never profitable.
* The other terminated experiment was comprised of two elements: something I’d announced here in the spring, and something I’d never announced publicly anywhere before this morning.
2010 marked the end of a two-year attempt to (with Rick Veitch) bring the 1993 Image Comics series 1963 back into print in a single edition (a year-long 2009 effort finally and definitively deep-sixed by Alan Moore early in the year). Truth to tell, Rick and I had been carrying that dream (and albatross) for the entire decade, entertaining numerous overtures from various publishers over the years. This one came closest to reality—we were so close!—and we thought we just about had it ready to go—but it wasn’t to be. Given Alan‘s clear wishes, Rick and I joyously let go of it all, and put it behind us.
It will never be, not in our lifetimes, at any rate.
The secret, related 2010 project was my ongoing attempt to revive my quartet of characters (N-Man, The Fury, The Hypernaut, and Sky Solo) with original 1963 publisher Image Comics for 2011.
After seven long months, still without a contract in hand, I pulled the plug at 12:02 AM this morning; there will be no Image Comics revival of my characters in 2011.
No worries; how can you miss what you didn’t even know was stewing?
It was a nice dream, but clearly there was no real enthusiasm or momentum from Image. Given the current market, where traditional print comics continue to dwindle in sales, I cannot blame them. However, the energies and interests of those who were eager and willing to work with me on what continues to be a non-starter should not and cannot be sustained, and I cannot in good conscious continue. It’s over.
We withheld solicitation all this time in hopes of the Image Comics project working out, which might have lended some much-needed marketability to the venture; but sans that, we’ll simply wrap up work pending on the oversized About Comics volume, and get it out later this year.
Given the sorry state of the market, snap it up once it’s in print; I’ll make announcements here, once it’s ready to solicit and again when it’s actually in print.
So much for 2010.
On to 2011—with Dave Sim!
But what I can tell you is that here on Myrant, I am archiving Dave‘s and my latest ongoing conversation, which proceeds below, without further ado.
* Once again, continuing and picking up directly from yesterday
One last word, for now, about Creator’s Rights, Creator’s Responsibilities, and the Right to say “No”:
I’m far enough along (as are my now-adult children) to see yet another permutation of how a creator or one creative partner removing themselves from not only the process, but from even being named, in conjunction with the afterlife of a finished body of collaborative work.
It’s one thing when a partner insists on their name not being included in any form of the work. That is necessarily legally complicating, and can (especially in the case of work done with Alan Moore) mean work publishers would be overjoyed to run with loses all market value without the boxoffice magic of that unnamed creative partner.
It is, effectively, a way of burying the work; as I’ve now seen first hand with 1963, it can also prevent anyone who had anything to do with the project from ever earning a nickel on their respective portion of the work ever again. C’est la vie.
But it also has other consequences. That is, since Alan Moore has insisted his name not be mentioned in conjunction with any adaptations of completed past comics work (as is his right, and as protected by the European copyright law definition of moral rights), the simplest solution for corporate media giants dealing with such a demand is to simply remove the names of all the active creative partners.
I was happy to see David Lloyd and Dave Gibbons cited by name in all V for Vendetta and Watchmen movie materials and merchandizing—their standing contracts obviously offered them some measure of protection, however discomforting is was or may be to be the solely named creator, which in no way reflects the collaborative nature of the source work—but the solution with Constantine was to simply go with the old 1940s serial byline: “Based on the [insert publisher's name here] Comic Book Series [substitute Graphic Novel today].”
It was one thing when it happened with The Return of the Swamp Thing movie in 1989; we weren’t credited at all there (a bit of a relief, frankly, given the movie), but note too that my daughter Maia Rose was 6 years old then, and my son Daniel was 4.
It was quite another when Constantine popped up in theaters in 2005, then on video and DVD and cable. My kids were confronted with, “If this is really based on your Dad’s work in comics, why isn’t his name on it?”
This may seem petty, but it’s important to them; and in the coin of the realm of Hollywood, the credit is all that carries credibility. If my name isn’t on it, it doesn’t matter whether or not we got a share of the dough (on Constantine, we did; such was not the case on anything else movie-related I ever had a hand in, or that was based on something I had a hand in). The one time a movie producer ever asked about my past credits (fishing for my involvement on his own venture), and I mentioned I’d created the snapping-turtle TMNT villain that became Tokka in TMNT II: Secret of the Ooze, cited Constantine as being derived from my past work, and that I was the original publisher of From Hell, he came back about 10 minutes later (after an online search, no doubt), “who are you kidding?”
My daughter has asked me for one of the original Tokka toys for her collection. I suspect it’s in part because that first run of Playmates toys were the only public evidence of my participation: only the first Tokka toys had the byline in fine print on the packaging, crediting me by name for having some role in the creation of the character. No such bylines exist on Constantine in any form.
Personally, I don’t care, as a retired American comic book creator; DC still honors their contracts with me, and we did receive a handsome pay day on the option money for Constantine once the movie was a reality, and the surrounding print and merchandizing revenues from DC/Vertigo product.
But as a parent, I most certainly do care. I’m seeing it play out with my own now-adult children.
It’s going to be interesting to see where all this leads, down the road. I hate to evoke the spectre of Percy Crosby and Skippy, and how his family dealt with Crosby once his will as a creator got in the way of the family’s will for controlling Percy‘s creations, but we’re all witnessing from some distance what is arguably only a second act of a much longer play.
It is a play that also necessarily involves family, and grown children, and legal and creative partners, and their grown children and heirs, and legacies, and works that may be abandoned today, but suddenly perceived as having potential value down the road, and Creator Responsibilities coming home to roost, whether those responsibilities were engaged with fully, shirked, ignored, buried, or torched.
My dear friend Neil Gaiman asked me point blank in 2010, “If you and Rick had Alan‘s permission in 2009, why didn’t you just proceed with the 1963 reprint?”
Moral and ethical qualms aside concerning handling a collaborative work without the primary name of a partner or his signature on legal documents, the potential can of worms down the road for legal nightmares emerging from the Moore legacy was enough for me to simply wash my hands of the whole affair.
Given the legal hassles and perils I’ve already dealt with in my very minor orbit of Alan‘s work (how many times did I have to sign documents saying “I have no legal claim to [insert Taboo serialized graphic novel here]“ over the years?), and the increasingly untenable positions I see other, more prominent creative partners placed in regarding collaborative works with Alan, it was patently insane to entertain doing anything without Alan‘s signature. I’ve experienced first-hand what “whatever you think is best” culminates in. Once a signature on some legal release form or agreement was not forthcoming, there was nothing further to entertain. No, thank you.
I’ve got only one set of 1963-related contracts signed by all three core creative partners, dating from 1998, legally dividing the property once known as 1963. Those are all I can legally, morally, and ethically act upon. The rest, per Alan‘s wishes, is to be discarded, abandoned, orphaned, earning nothing more for anyone involved.
That’s all I’ll say about that for now, without really tearing into the issue.
* Dave‘s next letter takes us in a fresh direction, appropriate to New Year’s Day:
It’s startling and moving to read your “talking” in this way about teaching, Dave, and a great relief.
Back in the 1980s and ’90s, you considered teaching comics a lost cause; you often told me so. At the time, I was only tutoring (my student Evan Carr was my greatest experience in that capacity) and occasionally doing talks in local Vermont schools, but you clearly considered it just another Bissette diversion from the Ideal Work.
For me, it became the Ideal Work. I went from the occasional school chalk-talk or guest appearance to tutoring, and from there was invited to teach a storytelling workshop with an extraordinary group of southern VT/northern Massachusetts home-schooled students, a collective their parents maintained. That was the single most amazing teaching experience of my life prior to the Center for Cartoon Studies. The mind-blowing finale to that was when the students, on their own initiative and inspired by my humble role in the whole 24 Hour Comics legacy, completed a 24 hour 24-minute movie (!!!), including scoring the music! This was the single most energizing high from teaching I’d experience up to that point in time.
It’s now practically a weekly experience at CCS, and I very, very much know this is the best possible thing I could be doing with my life at this point in my life.
My excitement at Glamourpuss when I saw the first issue (and thank you, too, for the special unsolicited mailing of the zombie cover issue; I never thanked you when you sent it, which was my bad) was the gobsmacking fact that you were (a) doing an essay on inking in comics form, and (b) you were teaching. Of course, you’d been actually doing that for a long time—I was among your most bone-headed students, remember?—but you didn’t see it as such. Clearly, The Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing (in all its incarnations and editions) was and is that, too.
And a mighty fine, insightful teacher you’ve been in Glamourpuss, too. It was a pleasure to catch up last year on the whole run to date, and see where you took it (I don’t have a local comics shop, and finally just direct-ordered a set from your publisher and partners on this venture).
That said, Dave, your account here of not only playing and making videos with your friends and their children, but of your finding such an effective teaching method in working with Mike on his inking, has fucking made my day.
“I offer it as a teaching possibility” concerning the brush techniques is an invitation I will immediately act upon.
Alec Longstreth (long-standing self-publisher of Phase 07, among other excellent comics creations) and Jon Chad (creator of Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth, among others) pitch in with me in my Drawing Workshop class when we get into pen and ink and brush techniques; I do demos, but I am such an instinctive pen-and-brush artist that I found and find my demos only went so far. Jon offers the most intensive analysis of drawing with the nib I’ve ever heard or seen anywhere, and he is terrific. Alec is a far more articulate observer of the perils of working with brush than I am at present (as ever, I “go with the flow,” quite literally, and that, my students remind me regularly, is hardly a useful zen instructional) and he brought in the analogy (profered by another artist, whose name eludes me at present) of the hand as a helicoptor, holding the brush up from the page: it’s effective, but again, only to a point.
Your skating analogy is spot on, and with your permission extended (thank you!), I’m going to run with that this very semester I’m teaching. Thanks, Dave!
You know how many times I tried, in the past, to send you checks to repay the debt I knew I owed. You never, ever cashed them; you refused outright in 1993, when I fucking begged you over the phone to accept and cash the damned thing. “Give it to Maia and Danny,” you told me.
I most certainly work week in, week out to repay that debt via my ongoing work at CCS. It is my honor and my privilege, and I’m lucky to have the job, too.
You made my New Year’s Day with this paragraph alone, Dave. Thank you, and—whew!—what a weight off my back.
Happy New Year, to you and yours; Happy New Year, one and all.
Sources and Links: Further Reading
III: Dave Sim, Scott McCloud, Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch, Denis Kitchen, Erik Larsen, Mark Martin, Fernando Ruiz, and Al Nickerson Past Dialogues on Creator’s Rights
I also want to bring your attention to the home websites/blogs of my CCS co-instructors Alec Longstreth and Jon Chad, who I referenced in today’s dialogue with Dave:
Tomorrow: Part 6 of Dave’s and Steve’s Ongoing Jabbering