Forgotten Comics Wars

Or: How Angry Freelancers Made It Possible for A New Mainstream Comics Era (Including Vertigo) to Exist, Part 3

How bad was it for retailers during this period?

Vet comics retailer Jeff Clark recalls, “Sitting in the store, reading the Buyer’s Guide about this stuff back then, having made attempts to broaden the spectrum of choices in the store in and around that time, carrying Omaha and the like, someone unknown would enter the store and a chill would overtake you, just wondering…who, what, why is this person here….” (unsolicited note sent to me via Facebook, March 13, 2010, quoted here with Jeff‘s permission; thanks, Jeff!).

And here’s what DC Comics did. DC Comics publisher¬†Jenette Kahn sent this letter to freelancers — not retailers — just in time for Christmas (published here in its official public airing):

As noted in the first post (the prologue) to this multi-chapter essay, a group of us had already rallied, led by Frank Miller; we had communicated, circulated a document, and published the following in the very issue of The Comics Buyer’s Guide that Jenette‘s letter was published in.

That was no mean feat, folks, in the pre-internet, pre-email, pre-Twitter and pre-Facebook era, and it was Frank that saw to it this was ratified and in print with such impeccable timing (which forced DC‘s hand, and resulted in all I’m sharing in this post seeing print when it did):
SRBDCRatingsdoc3aNote the fine print, which states in part that Brent Anderson, Terry Austin and John Byrne “preferred to alter the wording of the first sentence as follows: ‘In place of ‘new standards of in-house censorship to your comics’ they wish it to read ‘a new system of in-house ratings for your comics.’…”

And here are the ‘new’ DC standards we were reacting to.

Read ‘em yourself, and see how they jive in your experience with all that had already been published at DC Comics as of December 1986 — particularly The Saga of the Swamp Thing, Camelot 3000, Ronin, Vigilante, The Dark Knight Returns, Howard Chaykin’s The Shadow and the surprise hit of the year,¬†Watchmen:

Next: The Controversy, In Which John Byrne Says, “There Must Be A Middle Ground…”

Discussion (3) ¬

  1. Colin Tedford

    I was born in ’77, and though I never followed any series month to month, I definitely read Swamp Thing on occasion in the 80s without concerning or disturbing my parents!

  2. Colin Tedford

    Er, also could we maybe have “back” and “next” links for the blog to make it easier to follow these fantastic multi-part essays?

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