Something Like an Ending, Part 2
Wrapping Up the Wreckage
A bit more on 2011, before we slide into 2012…
First and foremost, know that we had it good; we’ve had it easy.
[Left: Main Street Museum, August 2011, the morning after Hurricane Irene; photo ©2011 Matt Bucy]
Seeing the real devastation caused among our friends and neighbors and families in 2011 by fire, flood, tornadoes, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and lack of effective health care (or, more to the point, abandonment by that system), believe me, I’m thankful for all we have, and all our blessings.
Keeping perspective is essential.
Whatever follows, know that we’re good. We appreciate that we have it good.
We’ve been lucky. We still have our lives, our health, each other, a home, our now-adult children, and our jobs.
[Right: Springfield, MA after the June tornado hit; photo ©2011 Marjory Bissette]
If 2010 was a year of hard lessons—from the terminal illness and violent death of my old friend Steve Perry, to the ultimately fruitless seven-month-dance with Image Comics over a planned project, to the kinder & gentler lessons of my pal, employer, peer, and CCS-cofounder James Sturm reaping far more international internet attention and points for staying off the internet than I’ve/I’ll ever earned/could earn for posting daily—2011 was full of far tougher life lessons and refreshers.
Let me just share a few of the lessons of 2011, and leave it at this.
Mind you, it was indeed a good year, in many ways (more on that in the next post).
Then again, it was full of life-changers, too.
Personally, it was at times a rough year.
However brutal the passage of Steve Perry in the spring of 2010, the far more direct, intimate process of being with another close friend Mark “Sparky” Whitcomb (again, since the Johnson State College days, and, like Steve Perry, one of the four people who convinced me to seriously pursue a path in comics instead of minding the family store in Colbyville back in 1976) every week through a long, lingering illness literally to his dying days in the spring of 2011 cut deeper. Man, I loved Sparky; seeing him go at all was a heartbreaker. Seeing it all go down as it did, despite the loving care he received every single day, was soul crushing.
After much deliberation, I made Sparky‘s life, our relationship, and his passing central to my graduation speech to the CCS Class of 2011, which helped me get my own head around what burned in my own heart and head, and state in no uncertain terms the life-and-death nature of pursuing a creative path in life… or, conversely, refusing it.
Despite our many 2011 blessings, we survived the loss of many loved ones.
Sparky was one of ‘em. There were others. Such is life, especially once you’re in your 50s…
That kept everything in perspective on my meager “career” concerns, which necessarily took a back seat to the life-and-death demands of 2011, among other speed bumps. Let me just cite one example.
Building on the James Sturm/Slate/offline lessons came the decisive 2011 ride involving Alan Moore and the wake of the final stroke in the remnant of that relationship. It’s a shadow I’ll forever live in, since some of my best work in comics from 1983–1993 was done with Alan; and so the dance went on, over what had been, what almost was, and what I’m able to make of what was 1963, and what I actually own of the wreckage.
[Left: Cover, April 1993 issue of Inside Image; Mystery Incorporated is © and TM Alan Moore and Rick Veitch; art by Rick Veitch and Dave Gibbons. Posted for educational/archival purposes only; fair use laws apply.]
Oh, the lessons Alan has taught me… I’ll be discrete, and polite, and frame it as succinctly as I can.
Like many people in comics, I owe a lot to Alan. I paid all the debts I could to him over the years we worked together, as best I could. But it’s been a curious relationship, more curious still since he exiled me from his life in 1996.
The man who told me via phone in 1992 that his goal was “to become invisible” remained as visible and omnipresent as ever—a powerful form of invisibility, that, but what less to expect from a shapeshifter and shaman?—though for what it’s worth, much of his hold over me and mine ended resoundingly in 2011.
After working hard all through 2010 with former 1963 creative partner(s) to arrive at a planned (with Alan‘s permission throughout 2010) reprint edition of the original 1963 series (circa 1993) that would adhere absolutely to Alan‘s demands—including that of not using or mentioning his name or affiliation with the project (yes, we found a publisher despite that)—it all ended in a heartbeat early in 2011.
Alan simply pulled the plug, and thus it was all over but the tears.
So, an end to it. And, as a result, I no longer care about mentioning or not mentioning his name. That ended with the 1963 project, save for the legal agreements I signed in 1998 concerning my share of the 1963 properties. There’s no appeasing Alan; that dance is over.
For what it’s worth and not worth, 1963 will never be legally reprinted in any language in our lifetimes.
Maybe, after we’re gone, our now-adult kids will be able to sort it all out.
In creator co-ownership, one partner can forever and willfully deep-six any future in any co-owned work—even completed, published work, that still has perceived or potential market value.
That, too, is part of creator ownership, and co-ownership, and creator rights, and must be taken into account in any discussion of the subject.
All of us who worked hard on 1963 back in 1992–93 earned whatever we would or will ever earn from that work back in 1993, and that was that.
We will never see a dime from any of that work again, while the quarterly royalties from the DC/Vertigo collected Swamp Thing editions (for which I wrote two book introductions in 2011, more on that in a moment) and John Constantine/Hellraiser arrive, for the most part, like clockwork.
[Above, right: Swamp Thing, Book Six, 2011; Swamp Thing® and ©2011 DC Comics, Inc./DC Entertainment, Inc.; cover art by Thomas Yeates. Posted for educational/archival purposes only, fair use laws apply.]
If you had told the Bissette of 1990 that he’d never see a dime on any work done with Alan save the work-for-hire collaborative ventures we’d already put behind us by 1990, the Bissette of 1990 would have laughed and spit and ranted about the evils of work-for-hire.
Given the past decade’s long-distance and close-range spectacles related to Alan wanting to remove his name from, and/or the existence of, key collaborative works from prior decades, and experiencing first-hand the repercussions of his doing just that (with 1963), and surviving first-hand being exiled forever by said previous pal and creative partner, the Bissette of 2011 can only thank his lucky stars that he did his most extensive and lasting work with Mr. Moore under work-for-hire conditions for DC Comics.
For any who choose to take offense, rest assured I could (but won’t) say more, much more.
Suffice to note, the ironies cannot be overstated.
That said, one of the quiet joys of 2011 was writing that final introduction for Swamp Thing: Book Six. I got to send a fond and proper farewell, there, to a lot, in a venue that will (hopefully) outlive 2011.
Headway was also made with Tales of the Uncanny, what I’m building (still) from the wreckage of what was 1963. More on that in 2012.
So, in a world where not being online draws more attention than actively engaging; in a world where creators who refuse to engage online and wish to be invisible are more visible than ever; in a world where I’ve hit ceilings and walls I can no longer test, some has been lost, some has been gained—much has been learned.
I’m walking away from some wreckage, repairing what I can, giving up at last on what I can’t.
I’m leaving behind some worthwhile and productive experiments by applying the hard-earned results, and moving in what I hope will be more positive and rewarding directions for 2012.