This post, which was about Alan Moore’s recent interview, has been removed.
After its publication, I became aware that what I had written was factually inaccurate.
I also became aware that what I had written had hurt many people. In part, that was due to the effect of these inaccuracies; I repeated the interview’s misrepresentations. But this hurt was compounded by language I used — language I may have thought was clear, but that some have read as racially insensitive.
I also have become aware that what I’ve written — and some of my apologies — have been read as implying that a critic’s academic credentials matter more than their specific criticisms.
For all of this, I’m sorry. For what it’s worth, none of this was intentional.
If I’ve failed to convey any of the concerns or the hurt I have caused, I invite you to tell me what I’m missing and to help me understand. I will listen.
You can stop here, if you want. I feel like there are a million things I want to say, and I’m not sleeping properly, and I’m sure what follows will be at best semi-coherent. Still, there are a few things I’d like to explain, if only for the record.
There was a lot I wanted to write about concerning the interview, but none of it was social criticism. Among my initial problems with the interview were:
- I found Moore’s personal attacks deeply troubling and not at all fair game. In some cases, these are so ugly that, even if Moore were to win the argument at hand, he’d still lose the argument, even on intellectual grounds (not simply on decorum), and badly so.
- Whatever Moore might think about super-heroes, his personal attacks on an unidentified “Batman scholar” dismissed not only super-hero scholarship but all scholarship — since it suggested that studying X means you think like X. I believe this to be anti-intellectual.
- I was also troubled by Moore’s dismissal of the internet, as if it wasn’t a medium serious critics or journalists used. While Moore may not use the internet, someone should tell him it’s not just uneducated lunatics, and mocking thoughts shared online has class implications, since it privileges elite and established magazines and the like.
- I was also troubled by the conspiratorial thinking Moore evidenced, such as implying that Laura Sneddon having interviewed Grant Morrison meant that they were in league to take Alan Moore down.
- I was also troubled by the vitriol Moore leveled against Sneddon and Morrison, both of whom Moore characterized as utterly unethical opportunists with vendettas, with very little evidence to support such a view. As I said in my original post, I don’t know anyone with a vendetta, and when you believe so many people have one against you, while it’s not impossible that you’re wrong, this belief likely says more about you than anyone.
- I was fascinated by Moore’s timeline of his encounters with Grant Morrison (especially through Dez Skinn and Karen Berger) — although some points in this story either strain credibility (Britain apparently had no better creator to recommend than a guy who’d done, as far as Moore knew, two or three derivative shorts) or don’t match up too well with actual history (Morrison wasn’t an “alleged professional” in 1990; in fact, he’d already secured his place in comics history).
- I was particularly appalled by the evidence Moore gave for his continued, baseless claims that Morrison is a career plagiarist: first, that Morrison incidentally used the Mandelbrot set (not plagiarism in the slightest); second, that Eddie Campbell said so (someone should ask Eddie Campbell what he thinks of this); and third, that Morrison copied a couple very generic descriptions of Moore works (which wouldn’t be plagiarism even if true). When people are left trying to puzzle out what Morrison work could possibly fit Moore’s own description, you know there’s a problem. I further wanted to point out that, no matter what Morrison’s said about a given work or Moore’s depictions, which might well be mean or flat-out wrong, they’re of an entirely different category as Moore accusing Morrison of the demonstrably wrong charge of being a career plagiarist (which is quite possibly defamation of character).
- I’m troubled by Moore’s claim that he won’t be interviewed by, nor published by, nor even associate with anyone who’s ever interviewed Grant Morrison or anyone who’s ever published or been an artistic collaborator of Morrison or Sneddon. Obviously, interviewing someone, publishing something of his, or having once creatively collaborated with him, is not an endorsement of everything Morrison does. Think about the long list of artists alone whom Moore’s writing off here, for no other reason than they once illustrated someone Morrison wrote. But “artistic collaborator” would presumably also include all of Morrison’s co-writers, successors who talked with him, editors, colorists, letterers, and more. Probably every major media outlet or comics journalist (including probably Pádraig Ó Méalóid) has interviewed Morrison. It’s Moore’s right to write off all of these people — many of whom are doubtlessly good people — if he wishes. But it’s ugly, and it perpetuates the chilling effect Moore’s reputation for being easily offended has already had. I can assure you that people within the industry (most of whom would love to interview or collaborate with Moore) are already reluctant to call Moore out — and that cowardice is probably one reason all of these issues with this interview haven’t been discussed adequately. Now Moore’s pushing this effect further, essentially forcing publishers, artists, and every media outlet to worry about working with or even interviewing Grant Morrison. Again, Moore’s got a right to do this if he wants, but it’s really ugly, and it has a chilling effect on the media’s coverage of Moore and Morrison — which may well be the intent. It smacks of the kind of bullying behavior normally associated with corporations that one would expect Moore to condemn.
(While an incidental point, Moore’s wrong in his sarcastic parenthetical that there’s no rape in Tom Strong: Tom Strong is himself raped by a woman in Nazi Germany. It’s not a major error; of course, Moore has written works without rape. However, it’s part of the same sloppiness exhibited overall, in which accusations of plagiarism are so inscrutable as to demonstrate instead that Alan Moore doesn’t understand what plagiarism is. When your indignant example of how you don’t always use rape has the main character being raped as a pretty major plot point, you’re just not doing yourself any favors.)
While not a point on this list, I also think Moore’s reputation is at a tipping point. I believe that lots of fair-minded, smart people, who like Moore’s work and much of what they know of him personally, and who are inclined to give Moore broad leeway, or dismiss statements as those of an cantankerous or eccentric writer, have now decided that enough’s enough. At least, that’s what I’ve been hearing, and it corresponds what I feel my own conscience dictating.
I reproduce the above list because I still think they’re legitimate points. My own failure to identify that the interview was (1) misrepresenting the social arguments against Moore and (2) not identifying Will Brooker and Pam Noles has not changed my thinking about any of the above points. In fact, learning this new information leads me to add other concerns about the interview, specifically:
- The interview simplifies the criticisms of Moore’s depictions, often to the point of absurdity. That’s why Moore seems so effective in knocking those criticisms down, one after another. He’s not wrong in his defenses. But he’s defended against straw men, such as “it’s wrong to ever depict rape” or “whites can’t write black characters.” Those are not, to my knowledge, arguments actually put forward by Noles, Brooker, Sneddon, or Morrison. As such, what the interview presents is not so much Moore’s defense against these arguments, but rather a series of sleights-of-hand, in which caricatures of very legitimate points are served up and dismissed with great panache. This is made worse by the fact that the comics community is notoriously hostile to this kind of social criticism, so for the great Alan Moore to caricature and mock these voices is especially troubling. Further compounding this is the fact that some of these voices are those of women and an African-American, two groups who are under-represented in comics and whose voices are too often mocked by comics fandom.
- Why does the interview not identify Will Brooker and Pam Noles? In interviews, where someone alludes to a specific person, it’s customary to identify that person in brackets (although a footnote or some other citation would be fine too). Similarly, where an argument is quoted or summarized, it’s actually required that the source of this argument or quote is identified. Failure to do so actually constitutes plagiarism, and not only in an academic context (just ask Rand Paul). The one exception is when someone is so vile that citing them would risk promoting them. Even this is rare, almost only used in online journalism, and actually still plagiarism — it’s just come to be accepted by many as a moral response to very extreme people. It is a silencing gesture, a sign of lack of respect, and it’s used to indicate that someone doesn’t deserve the dignity of a citation — or in extreme cases, even being named. The interview’s failure to cite helps to cement the impression, which the interview consistently transmits, that these two critics of Moore are (1) a self-identified “Batman scholar” on Twitter, possibly with no real credentials, who’s such a bomb-throwing opportunist that one might conceivably fail to cite him, and (2) an angry fan, totally alone in the points she was making, who once approached Kevin O’Neill at a signing with some complaints. The effect of this failure to cite is to improperly appropriate the arguments of Noles and Brooker, and to deprive them of their voice while simultaneously reducing them to cliches and mocking them. This is a pretty appalling business. That Noles and Brooker are relatively without power, compared to Alan Moore, should also not be lost on us. Nor should the fact that this plagiarism of their work occurs in an interview in which Moore complains about plagiarism. To my mind, it’s one thing to simplify someone’s argument into absurdity; that bad, but it’s probably worse not to even identify those speakers, so that people can follow up and decide for themselves. Sadly, 99% of the interview’s readers will leave it without doing any further research, and they’ll be probably be left with the same false impression that I was — that these were some pretty superficial arguments, mostly advanced by a random angry guy on Twitter and a random angry fan, both of whom the interview falsely paints as completely alone in their views.
To this second list of problems may also be appended the specific criticisms of Moore’s work. And those criticisms need addressing. They are part of a very legitimate dialogue about Moore’s work. But I’m not the one to address these things. I’m not primarily a social critic. And I’m tainted. No one’s going to believe I’m not covering my ass.
You can find Pam Noles’s extensive study of the racially problematic Golliwogg character here. Laura Sneddon’s attempted to correct the record here. Will Brooker has discussed the background of the interview, expanding on the tweets quoted in the interview, here. If you want to read an analysis of the Moore interview that’s better than my erroneous original post, I suggest Klint Finley’s.
Once I realized my error, I realized I was complicit in the two points above. I felt — and still feel — just heartbroken about this. However unwittingly, I’d silenced those same voices and reduced their arguments too. And people who read that, but didn’t come back for the corrections, would leave with these false impressions just as surely as they would from Alan Moore’s interviews.
Trust me when I say that horror doesn’t begin to describe how I felt; I felt that silencing. Not only of these specific critics, but so many others, who are also concerned about the many racist and sexist depictions in comics and elsewhere but who routinely get mocked and ignored. The great Alan Moore had reduced their arguments, mocked and insulted them personally, and failed to give two of them the dignity of a name. And… I’d done so too. I’d repeated that, and given the thumbs up to Alan Moore’s performance. And then put my name on it, and put it out into the world.
I fucked up. Big time.
Of course, I can plead ignorance and good intent, or the speed and extent of my response. I can point out I had huge problems with this interview already, and my statements after I realized the truth were as bold as any I’ve seen on the matter. I can add that the interview itself, as well as the many who have been silent about it or happily defended it on these points, are guilty of exactly what I am — but haven’t necessarily corrected it.
I would like to point out that my original post repeatedly contrasted between (A) simplistic criticism, such as “never depict rape” or “you can’t write characters outside your race” (which are pretty silly and anti-art; this are basic points about literature which, in all due respect, can’t be compromised), and (B) a meaningful, nuanced, and thoughtful discussion of Moore’s depictions and trends within his work, which I called for and said was needed and helpful. I thought I was distinguishing between (A) the charges Moore addressed in the interview and (B) the deeper discussions of these issues I’ve seen elsewhere (and have participated in). But because of my error, what I was actually distinguishing between was (A) the caricatures of arguments put forth in the interview and (B) what those arguments really were, for those who knew the interview was pulling a fast one. For the record, I think these arguments are precisely the kind of meaningful, nuanced, and thoughtful discussions we should be having.
But you know what? None of this matters. One sin doesn’t excuse another. And I can’t very well expect someone who I’ve helped silence and reduce to give a shit about my good intentions.
And I’m afraid the impression my original post left was that of a white male carting out his academic credentials in order to defend another white male with literary credentials, and to assure people not to worry, these criticisms weren’t serious.
My background is more in literary analysis than social criticism. And in responding to my error, I responded as a literary analyst. I wanted to aggressively correct my mistake and to say I was sorry. I believed my original analysis to be accurate, based on the information in the interview, and I believed my annotations to that analysis to be accurate, based on what I subsequently learned. Of course, I also apologized for any hurt feelings. In literary analysis, this is totally adequate. But it wasn’t, because while I’d largely written a rhetorical analysis, I’d screwed up matters of social criticism. You can’t insult people and then ask them to walk through a rhetorical exercise, even annotated with corrections, in which ignorance logically leads to insulting them! I was now way out in the waters of social criticism — waters I’ve only cautiously and rather nervously weighed into before. And the rules of social criticism are different. I was adrift, and all my training wasn’t helping me — in fact, it was causing me to sometimes seem rather tone-deaf.
Sometimes, even when I apologized, I’d use a word that someone would interpret in a way I never intended — but which was perfectly reasonable, given that person’s perspective. In literary analysis, we’d just say, “this wasn’t what I intended,” correct things if necessary, and everything’s good. But I wasn’t in cold literary analysis land anymore. I’d hurt people, and my training was insufficient to deal with it.
So… I apologized to Will Brooker in a separate post, because I’d talked quite a bit about that “Batman scholar,” whose credentials Moore had doubted, and I’d addressed how Moore didn’t seem to understand how scholarship works. I know Will Brooker’s work, so it was easy for me to craft an apology. I only learned Pam Noles’s identity a little later, and I wasn’t familiar with her work. I immediately started a separate apology to her, but I felt I had to familiarize myself at least somewhat with her and her work, which took time. Then I realized I had to annotate the original post, so as not to further perpetuate the same misinformation, and I got lost on social networks and in email conversations about this, and that separate apology to Pam Noles remained incomplete.
And I’m afraid the impression this left was that the white male academic was going out of his way to apologize fully and rapidly to a fellow white male academic, while not giving parity to the black woman to whom he also owed an apology.
Boy, was I clueless.
I’m afraid I also conveyed that criticism mattered more if made by an academic, not a fan or someone on Twitter. This is a perfect example of how what I’d originally posted just couldn’t be corrected. Because I’d questioned why Alan Moore seemed so concerned about some guy on Twitter or an angry fan. Once I learned this was a misrepresentation I’d repeated, I corrected the record. But the impression was still left that I seemed to care about who was making the argument than the actual argument, which would tend to marginalize those without degrees and privileged status. That I made a big public apology to Dr. Will Brooker, while confining my apology to Pam Noles to annotations on the original post, was not only racially problematic but also carried elitist connotations — which eerily echoed how the great Alan Moore seemed to be stooping to even address his critics. It looked like an elite white boy club.
Again: boy, was I clueless.
For the record, I’m sure I do have a bias in favor of academics, and I’m sure I have plenty of elitist values. But one of those elite beliefs is that an argument ultimately stands or falls on its own merits. I’ve heard lots of vapid people with doctorates (anyone who’s been to an academic conference has), and many of the most insightful arguments I’ve ever heard have come from people without a college degree. In fact, a big part of why I wanted a Ph.D. was because I wanted to use it to legitimate taking comics seriously. As a comics scholar, I’m very conscious of the fact that the giants on whose shoulders I stand aren’t academics at all; they’re the brave souls who ran the fanzines, or who posted their criticism online (as I did for years before my doctorate).
But again, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t expect anyone to believe me. All I can say is that I’ve tried to understand, and I’m sorry, not only for my original post but for any hurtful impressions my attempted apologies and corrections have made. And if I’ve failed to understand anything, I’m open to listening.
There’s no fixing what was structurally flawed, and I’ve already mentioned how the original post — even annotated — could still hurt people. So it’s gone, replaced by this.
For what it’s worth, this is (as far as I can recall) the first time Sequart’s taken a post down.
I still plan on finishing up that apology to Pam Noles — she deserves it — and then I’m putting myself on indefinite hiatus from writing for this site.
This is a considered decision; it’s taken me two full days to write this.
It’s not that I’m out of ideas. This post was my 133rd consecutive Monday post, during which I’ve written lots of posts on other days. I’ve probably got ideas and notes for 133 more. I’ve written nearly a million words for this site, and I was looking forward to hitting that milestone. I’m really proud of that, but this is more important.
I’m also not trying to be melodramatic, or petulant, or playing the victim. Please don’t let them say the politically correct mobs hounded me into this or something absurd like that; no one‘s asked for me to do this. I arrived at this decision on my own, and had to convince others to support me in it.
I’m not a victim here.
Pam Noles is the victim.
Will Brooker’s the victim.
Laura Sneddon’s the victim.
Even Grant Morrison, powerful though he may be, is the victim.
But most importantly, everyone who identifies with the troubled representations in Moore’s work, or in comics in general… and not only sees themselves being raped or stereotyped but also sees themselves in the critics who have pointed these issues out only to have themselves mocked and ridiculed… they’re the real victims here.
I’m the victimizer.
Let me repeat that.
I’m the victimizer.
And a victimizer with good intentions is still a victimizer.
I’ve lost the confidence of a significant portion of my audience. I certainly can’t credibly write about this interview, although I think it’s a huge story and needs serious discussion. I certainly can’t credibly write about social issues. There’s a cloud hanging over me right now, and it can only pollute what I and others on Sequart write, which isn’t fair to them.
And I’m deeply shaken, not only by my error and all the pain I’ve caused, but also by my own cluelessness and tone-deafness.
Right now, I need to listen, and try to express myself again later.
What I did was not okay, and apologizing is just not enough.
But I’m still sorry.
Considering the vehemence with which he derides superhero fans and scholars, I’d be curious to hear Alan talk about why he wrote Watchmen, Miracleman or The Killing Joke in the first place. Does he hate his younger self as much as he seems to hate these people?
Is he at all aware that it’s the quality of his writing that made people read superhero stories into adulthood? And why does he continue to write superhero stories if he’s so negative about the genre?
As far as I can tell Moore *does* seem to hate his former self. Or at least think most of his past comic work in the 80s is barely worth mentioning. And if it is (like with his semi-recent comments on Killing Joke) it is mostly a negative one.
And partially I cannot blame Alan for being so bitter. DC really screwed him over and lost him a ton of money. And a lot of thisay have also burned him out from comics more generally (this is my speculation) and so he is bitter about the whole thing.
The idea, to use Moore’s words that Killing Joke isn’t saying *anything* new or interesting seems on its face absurd. Sure, it is using a lot of motifs and themes that typically are associated with Joker and Batman stories (chaos, grimness, random violence, two sides of the same coin, absurdism, etc.) but this doesn’t mean it doesn’t do anything cool with these ideas.
And that is coming from someone who, at least only on my first read as of now, finds Killing Joke overrated.
To your last question, I am not sure that he *does* write superhero stuff anymore. Julian would know better than I on that point though
DC did not screw Moore out of money, or at least their “screwing” of him made more money for him than he ever would have made on his own. The Moore/DC dispute came about because he was angry at buttons being classified as a promotional expense instead of merchandising, and thus he did not get royalties for them.
This led to the split between them, and it was likely a case of bureaucratic oversight, not a deliberate desire to screw Moore out of anything. And even the contract he complains so much about with Watchmen has made him millions of dollars he never would have made had the rights reverted to him.
Moore did not get screwed financially by DC, at least not as far as I’m familiar with. Obviously some things are more important than money, and he may have wanted the rights to Watchmen back for his own purposes, but it would not have gotten the book read by more people or made him more money than it did now.
And the League books he’s writing now are not classical big two superhero, but are definitely in the superhero family.
If I’m reading it correctly, Moore refers to his Batman work in this essay as “one of the least personally interesting and most regretted works of [my] career.”
Well my knowledge has been limited to certain blogs, comments and of course the story told by Mood himself. So it is quite possible I have heard a biased tale. Not to mention my inclination is to believe that a big corporation would screw over their employee.
In any case I am not sure how you know Moore would not have gotten more or less money without DC. At least I don’t know how you could know that with any sort of certainty. Especially since he was a huge name in the 80s with V for Vendetta and Watchmen.
Either way a creator having rights to his own product is extremely important to some people (like Moore) and when that did not happen he felt betrayed and upset. My understanding is that this also happebes multiple times and not just with Watchmen.
That is as far as I understand the case. If you have more details I am happy to hear about them, especially with sources for your info.
If this is all still true then I very much would argue that Moore got screwed and thus has a reason to be upset.
For Moore now, owning the complete rights to his work is huge, and perhaps understandable. DC could certainly have done a better job in keeping him happy, but considering Moore’s track record of falling out with almost every person and publisher he’s worked with, a lot of the problem is with him.
Moore wasn’t ‘screwed’ per se on the Watchmen deal. DC honored the terms of a contract that Moore signed. Same for V For Vendetta, he gave the rights to the book to DC. Watchmen was an unprecedented circumstance, and DC could have given him the rights back, but had no obligation to, and after Moore stopped working for them, no incentive to. Look at how Neil Gaiman handled Sandman to see a way that a creator can work with a big corporation and gets exactly what he wants through some smart compromise.
DC screwed a lot of creators in the early days of publishing, Marvel did as well. And those publishers did stupid things that ruined their relationship with an amazing writer, but someone who was a bit more patient could have worked it out and got everything he wanted out of them. Moore chose to walk away.
In an ideal world, creators could do what they want and own all their work, but the realities of publishing mean that if a corporation is investing time and money into you, they have little incentive to give those works away. Moore himself chose to do the ABC line as work for hire, and deliberately did not retain the rights to those books.
The thing that bothers me about Moore is the fact that for at least twenty years, and even before that, he’s had the name and market presence that would allow him to create whatever he wants and own all those works. And yet he continually chooses to do superhero books and work for hire titles, while complaining about his treatment at big companies at the same time. The options are out there, and people will buy anything he writes, so it’s just a question of priorities.
Hi Patrick, hopefully this response comes in conjunction with your last. I can’t seem to directly respond to it, not on my mobile and not here on my laptop. So consider this my apology for any format shifts.
“For Moore now, owning the complete rights to his work is huge, and perhaps understandable. DC could certainly have done a better job in keeping him happy, but considering Moore’s track record of falling out with almost every person and publisher he’s worked with, a lot of the problem is with him.”
It’s certainly true that Moore has a bad temper and a bad way of breaking up relations. In fact I remember the answer he gave for breaking off his long friendship with David Lloyd because he didn’t call and thank him for the film money he got for the V for Vendetta adaptation. So yeah I know Moore can be petty (and boy have recent events shown this and in spades).
So certainly some of the issue is Moore being unwilling to have as much patience as perhaps he should. But I think it is more (heh) than just that. And I say this only on a very general basis mind you. I don’t think either you or I know the specific tenants of the contract Moore signed back in the 80s (though if you have a good article on it, let me know!) but I think we can safely say a few things:
1) One of these parties had more power than the other
2) One of these parties was a huge corporation and the other was a fast rising star in the comics industry
3. One of these parties had corporate lawyers and a ton more money to work with should things go sour
I am not trying to be snarky with you and I hope it doesn’t come off like that. I just think the social dynamics and power relations involved here should really be highlighted as much as possible. I can’t really blame Moore (well to a point I can, i.e. his personality probably didn’t help…) for not thinking he could get many rights from the DC corporation.
After all this was the *same* corporation that waited, how many years, before giving Seigal and Schuster their due? Bill Finger and arguably Jerry Robinson are still due too. And in the same industry that it took *so long* for Marvel and DC to give joint recognition or even group recognition in comics? That was at the time (if I recall correctly) still a fairly new thing. Perhaps a few decades at best, though as far as I remember it (and I apologize if I am mis-remembering) it was less.
So in an atmosphere like this, especially for a guy who so obviously came in with high ideals, expectations and most importantly a deep love for the comic book industry, I can’t really say I am gonna feel odd about Moore being bitter.
“Moore wasn’t ‘screwed’ per se on the Watchmen deal. DC honored the terms of a contract that Moore signed. Same for V For Vendetta, he gave the rights to the book to DC. Watchmen was an unprecedented circumstance, and DC could have given him the rights back, but had no obligation to, and after Moore stopped working for them, no incentive to.”
Sure, he signed a contract and contracts are an important part of an agreement but I don’t think contracts mean agreements are always voluntary *and* free all of the time through (and to be sure I don’t know that you think this but I am just pointing out a problem with this argument that I am seeing it). And often times (see: user agreements and especially South Park’s treatment of them) they are often loaded and loaded with corporate jargon, long-winded sentences and things that make your eyes easily glaze over.
And more fundamentally contracts can be effectively rewritten by the more powerful party and even when they aren’t the *ability* to have that sort of power is a big block to free agreements being made in any substantial sense.
Now, obviously I don’t know for a fact whether DC’s contract with Moore looked even remotely like this. But if it *was* anything like this I can’t imagine Moore having much of a shot at getting a fair shake from the start. Especially with the power and social dynamics I mentioned earlier that were most likely inherent to the situation.
“Look at how Neil Gaiman handled Sandman to see a way that a creator can work with a big corporation and gets exactly what he wants through some smart compromise.”
I don’t know how he handled Sandman (as I have not read it) or what you are specifically referring to. Could you elaborate?
But sure, I am not saying it’s impossible to cut a deal and and keep most of your terms intact. But the point (at least for writers like Moore) is that isn’t *good enough*. It should be one ones own terms (and you admit this is ideal yourself) and for some that isn’t enough.
Now, does that mean what Moore did in that situation the smartest? Perhaps not. But I can still respect and understand it given the climate of the comic book industry, its history (and honestly its present to some degree), the fundamental social and power dynamics involved and Moore’s own anarchic views on society.
“DC screwed a lot of creators in the early days of publishing, Marvel did as well. And those publishers did stupid things that ruined their relationship with an amazing writer, but someone who was a bit more patient could have worked it out and got everything he wanted out of them. Moore chose to walk away.”
I think this is probably more than partially true here but hopefully it is also obvious that Moore (with his obvious anarchist beliefs) had good reason to be dismissive of such a chance.
“In an ideal world, creators could do what they want and own all their work, but the realities of publishing mean that if a corporation is investing time and money into you, they have little incentive to give those works away. Moore himself chose to do the ABC line as work for hire, and deliberately did not retain the rights to those books.”
Was it deliberate? He sure doesn’t make it sound like that in the interviews he gives and the general impression of the situation. Then again he obviously has a bias so maybe I am just ignorant here or misinformed. Feel free to correct me if I am offbase.
“The thing that bothers me about Moore is the fact that for at least twenty years, and even before that, he’s had the name and market presence that would allow him to create whatever he wants and own all those works. And yet he continually chooses to do superhero books and work for hire titles, while complaining about his treatment at big companies at the same time.”
Well you can work for hire and not work for a big company at the same time. I don’t know all of the details but if Moore is criticizing the mainstream businesses and their work for hire practices *specifically* (which would explain his later 90s work at Image) then I would see no real big contradiction here.
And Moore (for all of his grumpiness) still has a fondness for superheroes somewhere deep down. At least that is the impression I got from that 2010 interview he gave that was on Bleeding Cool. Then again perhaps four years of time and these recent interviews signal his departure.
I will say either way that League from what I know and have heard only seems to bear some resemblance of a superhero comic. But I am working with limited knowledge here having not read it. So feel free to school me on this one. :P
“The options are out there, and people will buy anything he writes, so it’s just a question of priorities.”
The options to me seem fairly stacked against most creators but with Moore he could probably create his own magazine and it would probably be *some* sort of hit. So I think with Moore this is at least somewhat correct.
But even so, so what if it *is* a question of priorities? Maybe Moore prefers work for hire because it is what he understands best and it is what works for him best? If that is the case then good for him. I don’t think it delegitimizes his arguments and stances just because he doesn’t like how DC and Marvel treat people (and that seems to be his more specific opinion to me).
Thanks for this conversation, Patrick. Really enjoying it thus far. Please excuse any ignorance on my part as I have a feeling you’ve probably read more about this than me but I hope my general thoughts and philosophical digressions prove helpful to this conversation nonetheless.
I’m enjoying the discussion as well. The basic stipulation of the Watchmen contract is, DC owns the rights until it goes out of print. At the time, they assumed this would happen fairly soon, it was unprecedented to think that it would stay in print. But, obviously there’s no guarantees.
Here’s what Alan Moore had to say about the Watchmen contract: “Now, I’ve since seen the Watchmen contract, which obviously we didn’t read very closely at the time. ” He didn’t read it. This is a guy who’s at this point been in the business five years and already dealt with rights issues and disputes on Miracleman with Dez Skinn.
DC could have been nice about it and given him the rights, but it would be a bad business decision, and something they in no way are contractually obligated to. Considering his success with Miracleman, Alan could have read the contract, and said “Let’s include a five year reversion clause,” and there’d be no problems. If you don’t get a lawyer and read a contract, that’s a stupid move, particularly considering the stipulations you mentioned about the power between the parties and a history of creator problems.
If what Moore is saying is accurate, he came into the business so incredibly naive he didn’t even read his contract and now is so jaded he won’t even talk to anyone involved in it at all.
http://www.seraphemera.org/seraphemera_books/AlanMoore_Page1.html is a full Moore interview about the contract with more info, including the stuff about the buttons I mentioned.
Regarding Neil and Sandman, essentially Gaiman told them if they let him end the series when he wanted to, and not have another writer take over, he’d keep working for them. He treated them nicely, used his success as leverage and got everything he wanted. Perhaps they did this because of the experience of losing Moore, but I think Neil learned that you get what you want by working within the system, not sniping about people in the press.
Regarding ABC, Moore did those books as work for hire so that he and the artists would get up front pay. The only one that was not work for hire was League, which had already been optioned as a movie. The reason Moore can do League at Top Shelf now is because it was optioned for a movie before publication.
Moore doesn’t need to create his own magazine. Image, or any publisher, would roll out the red carpet for him. And honestly, everyone at Image owns all their work, and he could write a superhero book or any other genre, whatever he wants. The options he wanted exist, but he chooses to put his energy into fighting old battles instead of just creating new works, in the press at least.
I love Moore’s work, and I’d love to see him just write the stories he wants to write, but I feel like he’s beyond engaging in anything besides complaining at this point.
But Patrick, Morrison’s written for Image, so it’s apparently off-limits, if Moore holds to that.
(Of course, that’s an excellent point about Image — I just couldn’t resist.)
“I’m enjoying the discussion as well.”
Good to hear.
“The basic stipulation of the Watchmen contract is, DC owns the rights until it goes out of print. At the time, they assumed this would happen fairly soon, it was unprecedented to think that it would stay in print. But, obviously there’s no guarantees.”
See, but shouldn’t the contract have been re-negotiated at that point? At the point that Watchman become such a huge hit for DC shouldn’t the fact that the basic stipulation no longer applied have changed the contracts very foundational core and thus made it possible to re-negotiate?
Especially because Moore was now going to be a popular writer and DC probably would’ve gotten more out of it if they had kept him around rather than (what it sounds like to me) lie about the pretenses of the contract.
“He didn’t read it. This is a guy who’s at this point been in the business five years and already dealt with rights issues and disputes on Miracleman with Dez Skinn.”
I don’t know whether he didn’t read it or did the “eyes glazing over” that I mentioned before. But yes, I agree this what not a smart move on his part. I don’t think it ethically justifies what DC did to him though.
“DC could have been nice about it and given him the rights…”
See, I think the term “nice” here is a bit of a softball, Patrick. I think the stronger term, “ethical” would have been more appropriate.
“…but it would be a bad business decision, and something they in no way are contractually obligated to.”
Well like I was saying before, I think the contract is bogus and so are the circumstances of these sorts of contracts to begin with by and large.
Though I am curious: Why would it have been a bad business decision to give Moore his due and make him as an employee for them happy? Maybe I missed something and if so, I apologize.
And was this their only option? Surely their only option wasn’t to either discontinue Watchmen for years on end or keep it as is and give a nice big middle finger to Moore on the rights.
I mean, that is still my understanding of the case. Perhaps I am still just not getting something but it still seems like he was screwed out of money even if he was/is partially to blame.
“Considering his success with Miracleman, Alan could have read the contract, and said “Let’s include a five year reversion clause,” and there’d be no problems. If you don’t get a lawyer and read a contract, that’s a stupid move, particularly considering the stipulations you mentioned about the power between the parties and a history of creator problems.”
Right, I agree it was not smart. But it’s not right to treat someone poorly just because they make unwise decisions.
“http://www.seraphemera.org/seraphemera_books/AlanMoore_Page1.html is a full Moore interview about the contract with more info, including the stuff about the buttons I mentioned.”
Thanks for the link.
“Regarding Neil and Sandman, essentially Gaiman told them if they let him end the series when he wanted to, and not have another writer take over, he’d keep working for them. He treated them nicely, used his success as leverage and got everything he wanted. Perhaps they did this because of the experience of losing Moore, but I think Neil learned that you get what you want by working within the system, not sniping about people in the press.”
Well that seems like a false dichotomy. I don’t think the choices are always gonna be (or should be) either work inside DC or take grouchy potshots from the sidelines. I think working within more creator owned and collectively owned environments as competitors with DC and Marvel, etc. (as Image started out as IIRC). That’s my idea anyways.
“Regarding ABC, Moore did those books as work for hire so that he and the artists would get up front pay. The only one that was not work for hire was League, which had already been optioned as a movie. The reason Moore can do League at Top Shelf now is because it was optioned for a movie before publication.”
Okay, fair enough. I appreciate the clarification. I still do not see this as a contradiction though.
“Moore doesn’t need to create his own magazine. Image, or any publisher, would roll out the red carpet for him. And honestly, everyone at Image owns all their work, and he could write a superhero book or any other genre, whatever he wants. The options he wanted exist, but he chooses to put his energy into fighting old battles instead of just creating new works, in the press at least.”
Sure, I agree in terms of Moore. I suppose I am lamenting a larger state of affairs in the current market place.
“I love Moore’s work, and I’d love to see him just write the stories he wants to write, but I feel like he’s beyond engaging in anything besides complaining at this point.”
Well it’s hard to argue against that, Patrick. :P
Excellent article abs I eagerly await the next!
I loved how strongly worded and emotional Harry’s post was but also felt there needed to be a more even-handed approach. And I feel like this is it so far.
Now, I have only read Watchman, Killing Joke and V for Vendetta and have the first 8 volumes of Swamp Thing ready to be read anytime. So I am definitely not as knowledgeable as you but I also consider myself a fellow Moore fan and can say that I appreciated this.
I both enjoy and am horrified by Moore’s opinions on comics and the world. But he always manages to be insightful and even when he ripping someone a new one at least it is entertaining even if it is too mean-spirited for my liking.
Also, while I don’t want this to center around d politics I don’t think calling Moore a “liberal” is fair. He is an anarchist last I checked and I don’t think liberals hold a monopoly on considering the issues the way he does. I hope that doesn’t come off as contentious and I know it was only a line but it bothered me as an anarchist myself.
Anyways, awesome stuff and I am eager for more! :)
Please excuse typos. I am on my smartphone and was typing excitedly fast and decided to post without checking the post out (against that nagging voice in my head telling me to do so). “Abs” should be and.
Thanks, Nick! As you can see, I’ve changed my opinions based on new evidence. Let me know what you think about the annotations I’ve added, if you get a chance!
Totally fair point about Moore not being a liberal. Thanks for making it!
Wow Julain..that was a ton to take in.
I must say first off that your professionalism and integrity is something of the highest order in this particular case.
Aesthetically displeasing as it was at times it was good that you decided to add those annotations. I too took the interview at face value and oddly didn’t think to follow up (then again I had just read a 12,000 word interview or whatever the title was so to be fair reading more probably wasn’t first on my mind) and so I guess I must admit disappointment in Moore.
It is possible he had not seen the original roundtable emails and he just had no idea who Broker was…but even if we could assume all of this a lot of it is still wildly uncharitable, overly hostile and unbecoming Moore and doesn’t reflect upon him very well.
I am especially let down by the “angry black woman” thing and Moore”s response to this. It seems like he either has little memory or just refuses to accept that perhaps he shouldn’t comment on stuff he isn’t really paying any attention to.
Overall I think you handled this matter beautifully, Julian. Sequart is one of my favorite and most visited websites and this is why.
Thank you, Nick. That means a lot to me, especially at this time.
No problem. Keep up the great work!
For what its worth, I think folks should recognize that Moore seems aware that the top part of this interview/essay is rational arguments, and then he makes it explicit that he is transitioning into unfounded personal attacks.
As a reader but not a comics scholar, I was curious if anyone wanted to weigh in on how accurate Moore’s portrait of the state of sex and sexual violence in the medium was when he stepped onto the scene. I found that context really interesting, but can’t really evaluate it from my own knowledge. In discussing his claims with my girlfriend, she pointed out that the Cookalein story in Contract with God has a rape –although probably not the word “rape”– which is shown to have an emotional impact on the victim not played lightly.
For me, what you say about the rape in Contract with God is key. And I hope that’s clear from the above.
You’re analysis is great Julian and I also respect your intellectual honesty, adding the apology and re-editing your piece. I feel like I didn’t make my question clear: Moore gives the impression that he was more or less the first comics writer to handle sex and rape maturely, and that this was pretty much unknown when he started writing. I know that you and other people who contribute and comment here seem to know a lot about the history of the medium, so I was curious if you guys see this as essentially accurate or not (sorry if you addressed this above and I missed it). Contract with God predates Moore’s stated example, V for Vendetta, and even though Eisner’s work probably doesn’t rise to our contemporary standards of sensitive portrayals of women, the scene in question seems well above the barbarian/barmaid scenario Moore describes. At the same time, I know one example doesn’t really invalidate Moore’s whole argument so if you (Julian) or anyone wants to weigh in I’d be very interested, thanks.
Jake, I don’t think Moore was the first to use sex and rape maturely. I didn’t get that from the interview either (although Moore does sometimes seem to imply that mature comics begin and end with him). I personally took what Moore was saying as more of a generalization about older comics, and how it’s not like there was some pro-sex golden age prior to his “rapey” stuff coming on the scene. Perhaps in the best interpretation of what Moore’s saying there, he seems to see himself as a transitional figure, as having a place in history… he’s almost implying that his depictions might be problematic at times but that they’re mostly not and improved on what had come before. I wish he’d say that explicitly, because it shows a historical awareness that would improve his claims.
But I agree, Jake, that there are some examples of thoughtful (even if dated) depictions of sex (and rape) prior to Alan Moore, and Eisner’s a good place to start (great point, BTW). Some of the undergrounds are raunchy and troubled stuff, but I’m sure there are good depictions of sex there too. Even if Moore’s not wrong in his generalizing.
The Killing Joke overrated? Seriously? Maybe letting the dislike for the fella cloud one’s judgement. …
I love Killing Joke. Wrote a book about it… It’s not without its problems, which we’ll be talking about for decades to come, but it’s a classic.
Very late to this whole debate, but I wanted to make one possible explanation and two brief tonal observations based on the ‘career plagiarism’ comment. Tonal observation #1 – “frustration and annoyance”. Tonal observation #2 “sarcasm, and the written word not conveying tone”.
Possible explanation/interpretation: I read that description not as a simple straightforward anf genuine accusation that GM makes a ‘career’ out of ‘plagiarism’, but an arch observation (c.f. contrive to die) borne largely of frustration that GM appears to be broadly deliberately(?) copying/apeing Moore’s entire career and career trajectory. Indeed, some of GM’s occasional comments sound – and, really, how could they NOT? – somewhat bitter that HE, several times first-past-the-post in date or content, is not the ultra-celebrated and higher-regarded of the two.