Alan Moore on Robert Morales, 1958-2013:
“Appropriately for a man I met when he was spitting out incisive comments on the music business for Vibe magazine, my twenty-something-year relationship with Bob Morales was conducted, pretty much exclusively, in audio. I never got to shake his hand, but I imagine that Bob’s handshake was a firm one, and that it was warm. I’m going to miss the savvy New York creak his conversation had as much as I will surely miss his writing; the commitment, insight and rare passion that he brought to every story, ever feature, every line. One of the comic field’s conspicuously rare voices of colour, he was also one of its most gifted and original contemporary writers. As a genuine creator of integrity, inevitably he came into conflict with an industry that much prefers a bland subservience in its employees to the fierce, ungovernable talent of an actual artist who has something deeply felt to say and does not care to compromise a work which he or she believes in. That was the stance Bob Morales took, a fighting stance almost unheard of in a frequently less-than-superheroic marketplace, and that professional bravery is something else I’m going to miss. Moving with no apparent effort between his extraordinarily diverse realms of endeavour, Bob was like a human cultural adhesive that connected up a vast cobweb of people who, in every probability, would never have been introduced to one another save through him. One of the last authentic hipsters, he was sharp, astute, and very, very funny. If I’m honest it might be his anecdotes that I’ll miss most of all, the unexpected courtesy and deference extended to him by a crowd of strangers at a party whom, it transpired, had been informed Bob was a Puerto Rican mafia prince.
I may be wrong, but I did not see Bob as a conspicuously religious man with any firm conviction of an afterlife, and nor do I myself have any such beliefs. I do, however, have a strong affinity for Albert Einstein’s view that in this at-least-four-dimensional eternal solid that we know as spacetime there is only, as he put it, “the persistent illusion of transience”. Each instant, every hour and every human lifetime is therefore suspended, fixed forever in a medium without loss and without change, where our time-bound awareness recurs endlessly, our precious lives repeating in their joys, their sorrows and their sheer breathtaking richness, and each repetition new and unexpected, every time the first time round. Robert Morales had a fine and blazing life, a side or two of classic vinyl that I’m convinced will replay unendingly, just as I entirely expect to pick the ’phone up for an interview with Vibe, one day back in the hectic1980s, and commence a long, sweet friendship full of warmth and great ideas and lots of memorable laughs.
So long for now, Bob, from me and Melinda, and I’m looking forward to enjoying that mafia anecdote again.
Your friend and your admirer,
I understand completely why Grant Morrison is so insecure about his place in comics history in comparison to Alan Moore, but someone should really explain to Morrison how much weaker and more inferior he ironically makes himself appear with such verbose defensiveness. The work of the two writers should speak for itself, Grant, and let history decide how much you did or didn’t matter. This piece reminds me, more than anything, of Straczynski’s desperate, pathetic need to justify his participation in Before Watchmen by tearing Moore down, despite the fact that the worst thing Moore ever wrote is twice as interesting and enduring as the best thing Straczynski ever did. The last couple sentences of this article at The Comics Reporter really say all that needs to be said.
— Alan David Doane
I’ve been doing more of my own fiction-writing these days, as well as a lot of reviews of movies and other things at my other blog, so it really seems like a modest but achievable goal is to do maybe one or two comics posts here every month. Thus, since I’m going on vacation this weekend and not likely to write anything else for a week or so, my Comics July.
It’s just under a year for DC’s New 52, and despite trying at least the first issue of about 49 of them, the only ones I am still reading are Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., The Shade, Action Comics, Batman, and Batman Incorporated (this last one having only relaunched in the last month). What you can infer from these is that I still have some affection for Grant Morrison’s writing and will see his exit from superhero comics (Batman Inc. is fun, Action more miss-than-hit, and the upcoming Multiversity stuff sounds interesting). I also somewhat enjoy Scott Snyder’s writing, though I’m not that interested in tying in old business like Arcane to the somewhat fresher Red/Green/Rot stuff. I guess it’s fair to say that’s just an expansion of stuff Alan Moore came up with many years ago when he wrote the series, but at least it’s a little new and not something that has been explored much before. I am pretty tired of the whole Court of Owls stuff on Batman, but you know, I like Batman and it’s not a bad book, though not a good one.
Jeff Lemire has done all right on Animal Man and Frankenstein, though the art on the former, while distinctive and great at the weird, disturbing scenes, is also distancing for what seems to be a comic that wants to be about familial strength and those bonds being stronger and more important to the lead character than doing superhero stuff. Frankenstein started with some interesting ideas but seems to be treading water, or maybe it’s more accurate to say it has digressed into the Rot stuff when it should be working more on making its characters distinctive. I still don’t really get Frankenstein, much less the rest of his groovy ghoulies. Overall, even with just two writers on these three series, I think tying them all together with the same menace has made each book less special.
I still read a lot of Marvel, though not much has stood out. Daredevil has regained some of its footing with Chris Samnee on art, a good choice, and Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, though unfortunately uneven artistically, has been consistently entertaining and presented a recognizable but more mature Spider-Man. Avengers vs. X-Men has improved of late, with nice Olivier Coipel art and a few chunks of issues that made sense, though a lot of the plotting is stupid and/or redundant. Why would godlike X-Men fear Scarlet Witch so much, and why is essentially dressing up some Avengers to look like her a good idea when the X-Men have telepaths who should be able to figure out who’s who?
I’m reading more Image books than I have in maybe ever, mostly creator-owned stuff. I can’t confess to loving any of it, but Saga has been imaginative and amusing if not immensely engaging yet, and I’ve also enjoyed the sort of arty take on superheroes and apocalyptic sci-fi in Glory, Prophet, while The Manhattan Projects feels so far like Jonathan Hickman going back to the well and getting S.H.I.E.L.D. right. I was into Hickman’s Secret at first, but the second issue was kind of insulting, with a cliched gangster scene and an obvious reveal stretched out to the end of the issue with four panel pages of not much going on.
I suppose, given how much his work has meant to me, that I should write more about the latest Alan Moore League of Extraordinary Gentleman book, Century: 2009, but it was just okay. Some lovely ideas, typically good Kevin O’Neill artwork and of course, it feels like good value because you read it slowly, trying to pick up on all the pop culture references. But while I appreciate that pretty much all of Moore’s work has some terrific layers to it (I’ve not doubt there’s a great story behind even garbage like Deathblow: Byblows), here, the meta-story about Moore’s disillusionment with the comics industry and the rest of popular culture is more interesting than the plot. Making fun of Harry Potter should have been more fun, right?
Having boycotted Darwyn Cooke’s latest Parker adaptation, The Score, and with no really memorable Hellboy or B.P.R.D. books this month, the only book to really excite me was IDW’s Artist Edition of David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again. I’m not like ADD—I don’t read even my favorite comics over and over again, so it had been probably 20 years since I read this story. It still holds up very well, with an absolutely bulletproof first issue, although I think once it gets to the Nuke/Captain America issue, Daredevil is kind of a guest star in his own book. But while you can see some signs of writer Frank Miller’s eventual shock and awe style, he keeps things relatively restrained here, relying on Mazzucchelli to convey Captain America’s disgust and shame and the mental breakdown of Nuke. The main story of Daredevil/Matt Murdock’s ruination by the Kingpin and subsequent rebirth is not perfect, either. Matt’s flirtation with paranoia and despair is a little too brief, and how does he survive for so long on the streets? Was he homeless? And sure, seeing old girlfriend Karen Page now a junkie whore may have seemed like a progressive move for superhero comics then, but now feels a little cheap and mean. Of course it’s the woman who wrecks things for the hero. Since there was nothing to really be done with Karen once she came back to Matt, better to maybe have left her out entirely and make Matt’s downfall come from his own hubris. I don’t know, maybe I’m just blaming a lot of lesser grim and gritty comics on this early example, which doesn’t get nearly the blame as Miller’s Dark Knight Returns or Moore’s Watchmen and The Killing Joke. Despite its flaws, it’s still one of the better superhero stories ever written, and Miller and Mazzucchelli work so well together they can pretty much pull off anything they try here. The presentation of this book is exquisite, with oversized, heavy-weight black and white pages and a few vellum overlays to show the reader some of the more complex effects Mazzucchelli used on covers and some interior pages. Seeing what amounts to faithful photographs of the original boards makes this not only the most exciting way to experience the story but also the most intimate. Without distracting from what is a real page-turner, one still takes away the immense effort, the will to do something memorable, on the part of the artist. I can’t really imagine reading this again in the small, color format.
As I seem to be dropping a fair amount of Marvel books, and have dropped most of DC’s New 52 titles, I find that in the past few months I’ve gotten into a line of books from Image I wasn’t looking forward to and never thought I’d be enjoying: the relaunch of many of Rob Liefeld’s various Extreme books. Now, I like some better than others, and one not much at all, but for now let’s look at Supreme.
Although Prophet, Bloodstrike, Glory and Youngblood all continued their old ’90s numbering, they’re mostly fresh takes on those characters, or at least new teams picking up the pieces. Supreme is the only title to relaunch with its last writer, Alan Moore, as new writer Erik Larsen thought it would be fair and smart to use Moore’s final, unpublished script to bridge the gap between that run and what Larsen wanted to do on his run. It was a nice idea, as was the decision to publish a variant that matched up with the old logo and cover designs.
Moore was setting up an assault of The Citadel Supreme in issue #63, where all the various Supremes in the Multiverse hang out, by all the variations of villain Darius Dax. Larsen continues with that idea here, although what seems like a slam-dunk (lots of action and the simple fannish appeal of drawing tons of different takes on the same hero and villain) feels kind of uninspired here, with lots of corny lines and so many characters it’s treated as expected that we know and understand the relationships between Ethan and Diana and Suprema and the like.
The art, by Larsen and Cory Hamscher, looks a lot like the Larsen art I remember but more rushed, like a 24 hour comic. It lacks the texture and Kirbyesque dynamism I associate with his style, and I’m not sure if it has to do with Hamsher or not. Does Hamscher do the layouts and Larsen finishes? Don’t know, but it’s just an adequate teaming.
In the Afterword, after several paragraphs defending himself for being one of those guys who has to follow another guy’s celebrated run, Larsen explains that his goal here is to marry Moore’s Silver Age homage with the meaner, more violent take on the character as originally conceived by Liefeld. And so, the Mean Supreme is unchained and let loose on the Dax Army (I laughed when one of the Supremes can hardly comprehend that the Daxes would unite against the united Supremes—what else are they going to do?!), with bloody results. It’s okay, and I guess it’s sort of amusing that Larsen draws this Supreme in more of a Jim Lee style, but if, as it seems to be at the end, this Supreme is going to be the new Big Bad that the other Supremes have to stop, well, I honestly think I get enough of that story in Mark Waid’s Irredeemable. I didn’t dislike the issue, but unless Larsen does something really good with this new direction next issue, I’ll be dropping this one.
— Christopher Allen
One might be a more pressing issue, especially in the United States, but I think they both matter.
Today in his Bloggy Thing, longtime comics writer and writer-about-comics Tony Isabella talks about Watchmen 2. His own feelings seem to be that the creative lineup for the prequels will almost certainly guarantee that they are not in line with his vision of what superhero comics should be. That’s a point I can get behind. But then Tony quotes a reader named Joe Caramanga, who says:
“Just imagine if people cared half as much about health care and poverty in America as they do about preserving the integrity of WATCHMEN…”
That’s one of those facile pithy comments that really grates on me. And here’s why.
As someone who’s been quite vocal about social and cultural issues, be it health care, peak oil, equal marriage rights, abuse of police power, the corporate destruction of the nation and many others for years, I personally take a smidgen of offense at the implication by Joe Caramanga that those issues are worth caring about, but Alan Moore’s rights as the writer of Watchmen are not. Further, it’s not the “integrity of Watchmen” that I care about, it’s DC’s repeated and increasingly punitive and public abuse and humiliation of Alan Moore as a comics creator and as a human being that fills me with disgust and outrage. I have no horse at all in the race that is the expansion of the “Watchmen universe” as a creative playground for other comics creators — I’m fine with it, as long as ALL THREE of the original signers of the Watchmen contracts are in complete agreement about it and all parties feel they are being treated and compensated equally. Until that happens, I believe it’s morally and ethically wrong for DC to proceed with its plans for Watchmen 2, and will continue to speak out on the issue. And on the catastrophic state of health care in America, and the financial inequity and iniquities so rampant here in Los Estados Unidos.
— Alan David Doane
I thought I’d get the hyperbole out of the way right up front.
Over the past week, the anger and disgust I feel towards DC Comics and the scabs they’re hired to work on Watchmen comics against the intentions and expectations of all the signatories (DC, Moore, Gibbons) of the original contracts that brought the original Watchmen into the world has threatened to get the best of me. I didn’t specifically mention Hitler, but I did point out that Len Wein’s involvement reminds me of Vichy France during World War II. I remember making some comment about DC raping Watchmen’s corpse, and that was probably too over the top, although I think one is entitled to an extreme metaphor or two in circumstances as absolutely and unquestionably wrong as this. That said, I have loved ones in my life that have suffered through the trauma of actual rape, and no, this isn’t quite that horrific an experience. But what is happening here, I do believe, shares common elements with actual rape. Because it’s a more powerful entity asserting its will against the stated, explicit wishes of the victim. Here’s Alan Moore on Watchmen 2:
”What I want is for this not to happen.”
Does that not sound precisely like what a proper English gentlemen or lady might say with dignity just before being violated?
Make no mistake about it, this is a violation. Anyone who knows anything at all about the last 30 years of comics publishing history knows Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons were supposed to get the rights to Watchmen back. Moore expected it. Gibbons expected it. DC Comics expected it. It’s only because the work was so visionary and so enormous in its impact on an entire industry that DC was able to deliberately and with increasingly visible malice retain the rights to this singular property all these years. Has DC followed the letter of the contract? Absolutely. But the letter of the contract was written and agreed to by all parties entirely unaware of the paradigm shift that was about to occur. As someone else has pointed out this week, the irony lies in the fact that if Moore and Gibbons had merely turned in the slightly-tweaked Charlton homage DC asked for, paid for and was expecting, Moore and Gibbons would have owned all rights to Watchmen free and clear decades ago. It’s undeniable that the punishment Moore has been subjected to by DC in this and other matters (Gibbons seems far more content to play the company game, as is his right) has been intentional, repeated, and now has been stepped up to the point that it is creating a schism that DC Comics may actually come to regret.
To the best of my knowledge, DC never suffered for trying to weasel out of paying royalties to Moore and Gibbons for selling Watchmen merchandise. No one at DC ever took a sock on the jaw for buying Wildstorm from Jim Lee pretty much solely so they could force Moore to work for them, which he did out of concern for his artistic partners, for years. But I am seeing a lot of thoughtful essays and efforts building in strong opposition to Watchmen 2. (And if you’re wondering why I won’t call it “Before Watchmen,” it’s because DC wants me to. It’s Watchmen 2, and it stinks on ice.)
I am disappointed and sickened by the venality and cheap opportunism of the scab workers brought in to create more Watchmen comics. Azzarello. Bermejo. Cooke. Jones. Straczynski. Hughes. Kubert. Kubert. Wein. Lee. Conner. The only real surprises on the list for me are Len Wein and Darwyn Cooke, whose previous comics work had falsely led me to assume that they were thoughtful and decent human beings. Their public comments on this subject, and their willingness to contribute their gifts to something this despicable, have permanently convinced me otherwise. How can you reconcile Darwyn Cooke’s long commitment to quality and decency with his participation in Watchmen 2? You simply cannot. You can, however, as one blogger has done, point out his hypocrisy in a very public and persuasive manner.
I often differentiate between the artform and the industry of comics. Certainly I see them as two very distinct segments of what we all think of as, simply, “comics.” And when I say that I don’t know why comics does this to its best creators, I mean, all of comics.
If Watchmen 2 goes forward as planned, we are all to blame. Marvel exploited Jack Kirby for decades while he lived, and continues to do so, and few have done anything about it. By the time DC started repeatedly screwing Alan Moore and even spending untold money to stalk and harass him through the purchase of Wildstorm, many of us were aware enough of the creator’s rights issue to take some note of the wrongness of what went on. But who was strong enough to punish DC for it? Who was outraged enough?
This time, I think it might be different. This time the outrage seems more focused, more mature, and more sustainable. I won’t read Watchmen 2, not even for free, and I suspect many, many others will act similarly. Watchmen 2 is scab comics for scab readers, produced by a corrupt, arrogant management and nothing more. I urge anyone reading this to tell the truth about how DC Comics screwed Alan Moore on Watchmen and other issues for decades, and tell the truth about how enough is enough. You don’t need to mention Hitler, or rape, or even Vichy France. If you tell the plain truth about Alan Moore, DC Comics and Watchmen 2, people will figure it out for themselves. The intelligent and compassionate ones who value human beings over corporate profits won’t support Watchmen 2. The immoral scumbags who are publishing, producing and buying it, frankly, can have it.
If this really is what all of comics is about, letting this happen, then let it happen. But don’t think there won’t be consequences. This might not be the worst thing DC ever did, but it’s certainly the most publicly unethical and obviously wrong. Over the course of this week it has literally made me sick to my stomach. But after all the tweets I’ve written and all the rage I’ve felt, I keep coming back to one small phrase, composed by the most brilliant mind ever to work in comics, who has almost always, by Marvel and DC, and by the “fans” that support them, been treated like nothing more than shit that needs to be scraped off their heels:
”What I want is for this not to happen.”
What each of us chooses to do, after hearing so plain a declaration, will follow all of us for the rest of our time in comics, however much longer we can stand to be a part of it.
— Alan David Doane
I reject utterly the premise and substance of “The Rare Case Against Creator-Owned Comics,” posted on the Newsarama blog. If anything, Alan Moore’s veto of a reprinting of the 1963 project is a good argument for creator-owned comics. Moore’s writing was the prime appeal of 1963, and speaking as someone who bought it new on the stands, and not disregarding the wonderful artwork by Steve Bissette, Dave Gibbons and Rick Veitch, I can tell you I bought it primarily — if not solely, because of the writing of Alan Moore, and the clever way in which he invoked the tone of Silver Age Marvel Comics. Could the artists have done it without Moore? Not with the same level of quality and creative ingenuity. Certainly not without the enormous number of copies sold. Could Moore have done it without the particular artists who illustrated his ideas? Of course he could have.
Which isn’t to say I don’t sympathize with the artists. I do, completely. But I place more importance on Moore’s right to say “no,” and I totally sympathize with Moore’s desire to distance himself from the larger segment of the comics industry. Comics as a whole — readers and publishers — have treated him with contempt and ethical shenanigans for nearly as long as he’s been writing them. I can’t blame him at all for wanting to move on. I wish the 1963 partners could have reached an accord and would have loved to see the 1963 Annual back in the days when it was supposed to be published, but those days are over, and near so far as I can tell, as disappointing as it might be to the other creators, Moore is well within his rights to say “no.” If only his rights and desires had been respected a little more often over the last 30 years or so, he might be a little more magnanimous now in what he is willing to cooperate with, or at least tolerate.
Alan Moore has, in my over thirty years of reading his writing, earned my respect, my admiration, and my trust. I know he has higher-than-average expectations and standards when it comes to friendship and relationships, and I know there are good and decent people who have, for reasons I am not privileged to know, somehow found themselves fallen out of Moore’s good graces. I’m sure that’s unpleasant, even painful.
But Moore, as an individual and as a comics creator, has more than earned the right to associate with, both personally and professionally, only those he chooses to associate with. He should not be forced into business contracts or personal relationships he does not wish to be a part of, and we should respect that. He’s earned the right to work on the projects he chooses to do, and not a goddamned thing more. Frankly, he’s earned the right to be left in peace. Comics has taken enough from the man. He’s given enough of himself. Steve Bissette, as a former creative partner, has the right to say what he wishes about 1963, as does anyone else who was involved in the project. Everyone else is just blowing so much hot air.
— Alan David Doane
As one of the signees of my buddy Alan David Doane’s petition asking DC Comics to come to an accord with the creators of Watchmen or, failing that, scuttle plans for Watchmen prequels/sequels/spinoffs, I wrestled with the rationale of it for a little bit. I’m probably as temperamental as Alan, but not so anti-corporate, and by and large I come down on the side of the law. And as it seems to be legal for DC to go forth with exploiting what appears to be their property, as rights never reverted back to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, I was basically okay with their legal right to do so, though not interested in the results.
But I have come to realize a couple things. First, laws obviously change. What was accepted practice fifty or thirty or even ten years ago can be disputed and reversed now. But more importantly, this is an ethical issue. Although Alan’s artwork below is over-the-top, the petition itself is evenhanded. No one is calling for Occupy DC or a boycott or anything like that. It basically just asks DC to do the right thing. Obviously, not everyone has the same ethics and values, and DC is made up of many people of differing ethics and values who have to balance them with the need to make money. To me, and I have to point out I had no involvement in the creation of this petition and am only stating my own desires for the outcome, it’s not so much about if or how DC reacts to it as that it hopefully starts some sort of dialogue, plants a seed in people’s minds about the importance of the artist and how one should always make the attempt to respect the author’s wishes. It’s not unheard of but rare in the world of film (2010, the shot-for-shot remake of Psycho) for filmmakers to try to follow another filmmaker’s visionary work, but comics publishers seem to have little regard for most creators, nor shame in endlessly regurgitating old ideas. As with the New 52, it’s pretty transparent that spinning off Watchmen with different creators is shortsighted and gimmicky and not likely to produce anything approaching the longevity and merit of the original work, but admittedly, that’s not really the point here. A kickass, mind-expanding Owlman story-for-the-ages, or a turd on the scale of The L.A.W., either result is still a kick in the teeth to Messrs. Moore & Gibbons and their singular work.
I just think it’s worth starting the discussion, both intellectually and spiritually. What benefit to one’s soul is there in championing those who reap their rewards based on someone else’s hard work and mental agility, who exploit legal loopholes that hurt others? I’m no saint and make plenty of my own questionable choices, but I don’t take pride in them, nor am I going to rally to the defense of others who do these things at the expense of others. Yes, there are more important things in the world and Change.org is involved with those things, too, but that doesn’t make it unimportant. Do you want to stand up, even in this mild way, for the Artist, or just keep lining up for more and more of the same crap? Even at one’s most selfish, it’s just common sense that the company who does right by its people is going to produce better work, more often.