Posted In: News
Forgotten Comics Wars
Or: How Angry Freelancers Made It Possible for A New Mainstream Comics Era (Including Vertigo) to Exist, Part 7
At this juncture, it’s important for a number of reasons that I dock my commentary for the most part — except to provide chronological context — and allow the creator of the moment in January 1987, Alan Moore, to speak for himself. (Alan has made it abundantly clear since 1996 that I’m not to speak to, for or about him, and there’s nothing to be gained by doing so.)
I’m fully documenting my sources, and anyone reading this can double-check them — and easily expand upon them. But I think this sums up the critical role Alan played in January 1987, and in all that followed.
[Left: Cover, Warrior #1, March 1982. FYI, Warrior ran for 26 issues, final issue cover dated January 1985; edited by Dez Skinn, published by his firm Quality Communications. Alan's key works Marvelman and V for Vendetta debuted in Warrior #1 and were serialized through most of the magazine's run; Marvelman ran for the last time in Warrior #21, to be continued with various artist colleborators via the US Eclipse Comics series Miracleman.]
* May 1983: Alan Moore enters the US comics industry.
I’ve recently found almost all of my files, notes and sketchbooks detailing the precise chronology of events concerning my collaborative work with Tom Yeates and Marty Pasko, Alan, John and Rick, and editors Len Wein and Karen Berger on Saga of the Swamp Thing. I can therefore state for a fact that the month after John and I finished work on our first collaborative issue with writer Marty Pasko — SOTST #16 (delivered in April 1983) — was precisely when John and I got the phone calls from Len Wein telling us Alan Moore would be the new writer on the series.
According to these notes, it was August 1983 when I finished (with Rick Veitch‘s help) “SOTST #21 pencils — my first from XLNT Alan Moore script.” I’d finished pencils on SOTST #19 (Marty‘s final issue) in July 1983, and that means Dan Day and John Totleben were working from Alan’s script to SOTST #20 that month, too — so I’d guesstimate Alan‘s first SOTST script was likely delivered to Len in June 1983.
[Right: Cover by Tom Yeates for SOTST #20, Alan Moore's first issue.]
[Note to those that care: This supercedes the chronologies I proposed in earlier essays on SOTST; I will be going back into the Myrant posts to revise and correct all dates, now that these notes and files are in hand, in the coming months, and I will clearly label those corrections as corrections, and reference my sources for revisions. Thanks!]
This marks Alan’s active entry as a freelancer into the American comicbook industry, writing for DC Comics Inc.
* November/December 1983 (approx. date interview was likely conducted for the following): Alan Moore interview excerpt, from the Amazing Heroes #39 ’1984 Preview Issue’ entry for Saga of the Swamp Thing (Jan. 15, 1984, pg. 101):
Note: According to my sketchbook notes/chronology, John and I delivered work on Len Wein‘s final issue as editor, SOTST #24 (“Roots”) on February 1984, and our first job for new editor Karen Berger – the cover for SOTST #25, our first collaborative cover art — was delivered March 1984. Alan must have been working with Karen by very beginning of January, 1984, undoubtably subsequent to phone conversations with her and Len toward the end of 1983. By my personal experience, it was a very orderly, easy transition, perfectly managed by both Len and Karen.
* March/April 1984: The impact of (a) Alan‘s work with DC Comics, at then-better page rates, treatment and terms than British publishers offered, and (b) Alan‘s growing disenchantment with the British comic industry (Marvel UK and Dez Skinn and Warrior in particular) leads to the following announcements, clipped from The Comics Buyer’s Guide (March 30, 1984, pp. 1, 3 and April 13, 1984, pg. 3):
* Note: Warrior was cancelled with its January 1985 (cover date) issue, with two completed V for Vendetta episodes unpublished; thus, the Warrior chapter of Alan‘s history ended in late 1984.
FYI, while Eclipse Comics published color reprints of the Warrior ”Marvelman” installments under the new title Miracleman, and continued the series with Alan scripting for a procession of new artists (culminating in his excellent collaboration with John Totleben), in the interim several companies approached Moore and David Lloyd about reprinting the Warrior chapters of — and completing – V for Vendetta.
Alan and David settled on DC Comics, completing negotiations, signing the contracts and beginning work before the events of December 1986-January 1987. Good to his word, Alan completed his contracted work on the series, and DC Comics published the complete, colored V for Vendetta as a 10-issue series, 1988-89.
I mention and document all this to demonstrate how Alan had already effectively shown his determination and ability to walk away from a publisher if and when ill-treated or provoked.
At the time — 1984 — DC Comics could afford to perceive this as Britain’s loss and DC Comics‘s gain, but they should have been paying closer attention to the reality of those situations.
All in all, Alan‘s courtship, romance and healthy working relationship with DC lasted about three years — an incredibly productive, fertile and profitable period for all concerned. But really, keeping perspective on history, Alan‘s healthy relations with DC lasted only a few months (less than a year) longer than his prior relations with Dez Skinn had (note the dates documented here for the beginning and end of Alan‘s good relations with DC). Alan continued to work with DC after the break in February 1987, completing contracted work, but the salad days were over.
* January/February 1987: The following letter was published as a ‘Guest Editorial’ in The Comics Buyer’s Guide for February 13, 1987.
I am posting the complete letter in its original manuscript form here, for archival purposes. (Note the underlined passage on the third page of my copy of the ms. is not Alan‘s underlining; I had underlined it back in 1987, preparing to quote Alan in my own guest editorial for TCBG.)
[Note: This letter was also reprinted complete in The Comics Journal #117, September 1987, pp. 35-36.]
Those of us who knew Alan at the time knew, too, that there was another reason for Alan‘s momentous decision to leave DC Comics. He’d chosen to depart on the public issue of DC‘s proposed ratings, however, rather than more privatized business reasons.
But to understand what followed, it’s vital you know the other reason Alan chose to depart from DC Comics.
Again, rather than offering what must be considered hearsay coming from me, or potentially break any confidences, I refer you to the public record — Alan‘s interview with Gary Groth in The Comics Journal #138, October 1990, pp. 68-69. ‘Mad Love’ was the name of Alan‘s own publishing company, then involved with having edited and published AARGH! (which I contributed and donated work to) and the initial issue(s) of Big Numbers, Alan‘s ironically titled, ill-fate collaboration with artist Bill Sienkiewicz:
There you have it — DC‘s “insinuation that they would not give our characters to other writers to exploit as long as we had a working relationship with DC” was the emotional breaking point from DC.
(FYI, I also recall at the time some hanky-panky with Watchmen unpaid merchandizing royalties — specifically, Watchmen watch sales claimed as ‘promotional’ items rather than merchandizing sales — being an issue, too, for Alan and Dave Gibbons, but as those were conversations we had in 1986-87 and I’ve no documentation in reach on that, I aks that you properly treat that as hearsay at this time.)
That same issue of The Comics Journal featured a lengthy article by Buddy Saunders entitled “Drawing the Line” (pp. 109-122), in which Buddy further pontificated on and documented what he considered a further moral decline in comicbook content, citing examples of Alan‘s own work along with Arkham Asylum, Wasteland, Hellblazer, Animal Man, Batman, Green Arrow, The Question, etc.
It is an essential read for anyone interested in this chapter of comics history, but I won’t be excerpting it here.
Suffice to say the article opened with the notorious double-page vista of London after the war between superheroes in Miracleman #15 — “A nightmare of grotesque violence” the caption read — conceived and brilliantly executed by Alan Moore and John Totleben (see pg. 118 of Buddy’s article for his comments; that spread is handily posted below, too). Buddy concluded, “Most comics fans already know how badly comics have declined both in story quality and moral direction. Many are getting fed up with pretentious stories that equate adult with evil and reduce long-established heroes to super-powered losers. Likewise, many retailers find themselves avoiding titles that are violent pornography, racist, or otherwise unsuitable. The current trends in comics, if it continues, may well result in an erosion of the only audience left to the comics industry — the fan audience.
An industry that behaves like a weed cannot expect to be treated like a flower. In the absence of responsible policies toward children, publishers and the entire industry will ultimately be held accountable, if not through legislative initiatives then through a withholding of public support. Should that occur, the comics medium’s potential to entertain a much broader audience and to establish itself as respected literature will be lost.” (Saunders, pg. 122).
But that was 1990 — Alan‘s clarifying statements about his other reasons for departing DC Comics, and Buddy Saunder‘s expansion of his argument for control and regulation of comicbook content.
Back in February 1987, in the wake of Alan‘s ‘Guest Editorial’ and the jointly-signed letter from Alan, Frank Miller, Marv Wolfman and Howard Chaykin, a few more shoes were about to drop…
Next: Shoes. Dropping.
All covers, artwork, text ©1986, 1987, 1990, 2010 their respective creators, publishers and/or copyright owners; Miracleman #15 art ©1990, 2010 John Totleben, and who the hell knows who otherwise owns anything connected with Miracleman at this point; all rights reserved to their respective owners. NOTE: All images are posted for archival and educational purposes only, under applicable US Fair Use laws.
Addendum: For those who care, I’ve just updated the original March 2009 6-chapter essay on the creation of the historic Saga of the Swamp Thing #20 (1983), Alan Moore‘s debut issue and his first-ever work for American comicbooks.
You can read the complete essay, with the corrections inserted and noted in Parts 1 and 2 now in place, here:
If you’re enjoying this current intensive essay on the DC Ratings Debacle, give my analysis of SOTST #20 a read — I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
And consider purchasing a sketch or book from the SpiderBaby Store or the Comics Art Fans Gallery, linked above. I post all this material daily on Myrant for free — with no advertising or sponsors. Please help subsidize that ongoing commitment of my time and energy, and thank you.