Alan Moore Reflects on Marvelman Comments - Mania.com



COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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LucidFrenzy 9/7/2009 10:10:43 AM

 You are confusing "suffering" with "recognising" there. My personal opinion about sarcasm is that it works better combined with wit.

Congratulations on finally half-heartedly answering one of my points. We could even look this word up in a big dictionary if you wanted... don't be scared, I've already done this for you.

"1. an ornamental recess in a wall or the like, usually semicircular in plan and arched, as for a statue or other decorative object.
2. a place or position suitable or appropriate for a person or thing: to find one's niche in the business world.
3. a distinct segment of a market.
4. Ecology. the position or function of an organism in a community of plants and animals."

dictionary.reference.com/browse/niche

I'm guessing number three there. But how a science fiction story like Halo Jones is "niche" while a science fiction story like the Fantastic Four isn't I wouldn't be able to explain.

Thing is, judging by how things have been going so far, neither can you. The nearest we've got is this dunderheaded notion that you can measure artistic quality by units shipped. Which would admittedly make a critic's life much easier, just clock up how many bums hit seats for Seventh Seal and for The Da Vinci Code and we're done. But as even comics like Marvel sell in small quantities compared to mainstream movies or TV shows, you're going to have to end up admitting they're pretty 'niche' too.

 

 

Cheesey1 9/7/2009 11:27:55 AM

Ha, ha, you are hilarious. I give you credit for trying to appear like an intellectual, poseurs always make for interesting reading and congrats on understanding what a niche is.   Good luck with the Hamlet mini-series and resurgence of the New Gods, in the mean time I'll make do with my Marvel.


 

LucidFrenzy 9/7/2009 3:33:28 PM

Now this is of course the thing with trying to argue with very foolish people. It's a bit like trying to stop a zombie in a movie - they're just too goddamn dumb to know when they're beat and it's time to lie down. Prove their assertions wrong, show them the lapses in their logic and they just keep blundering on like nothing has happened.

Needless to say if this doofus had just "made do with his Marvel" we'd have never needed to get started on this. If you just want to read about costumed characters who look great stuck on lunchboxes, fair enough, no crime committed. I'm not going to start appearing on some generic Marvel thread explaining how Alan Moore comics are so much better than yours. But if you do the reverse to us, expect people to raise points you're not going to be able to answer. (Except by calling someone an "intellectual" like that's some dirty word.)

Cheesey1 9/7/2009 8:38:53 PM

I respect intellectuals and you most certainly aren't one. I called you a poseur, a sham, definitely not an intellectual.  Best of luck keeping up the facade.      

ntnon 9/7/2009 10:48:16 PM

Cheesey1: "Stan has always credited people like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby for their contributions..." is not entirely accurate. Of course, it's debateable how far he went out of his way to put them (both Ditko and Kirdy felt strongly enough that they left Marvel - and Kirby in particular was very vocal about how he perceived himsefl being treated), and how far he was a victim of circumstance. It's certainly a lot more accurate to say that Marvel hyped Stan Lee over the artists than to suggest that it was solely Stan who hyped himself (although he did do that!), but Lee has always been wary of apportioning credit. For years he was happy to support the 'general wisdom' that he had created and written everything, while others had drawn his work. Ultimately he admitted that, under the Marvel Method, pretty much everything he'd produced had been in close consultation with his artists, and the two were reasonably-equal co-creators. Still more recently, it has been widely demonstrated that in several cases Kirby (in particular) would enter story meetings with ideas, talk them over with Stan, plot and draw them (often including dialogue) himself, and then have Stan take credit for the plot and words. Without being either individual, its difficult to tell how one-sided these stories are, and certainly it was Stan who near-pioneered the on-page crediting of creative individuals - as well as noting that there came a point when Stan credited (some of) his artists with co-plotting various episodes.

Stan Lee is a great man, and helped create some of the most enduring comics characters. Alan Moore co-created some of the most enduring stories. Neither individual is a saint, nor are they above criticism. (Nor, ultimately, are they in any way comparable!)

 

"Moore's original creations are niche and what basis would he have for suing anyway? As far as I'm aware all of his own, original characters are under ABC comics, which he owns so can he sue- himself? If you're writing for an established character, then you are basically an employee. I gues his 1984 "inspired" title V for Vendetta was DC, so maybe he could sue them, but whatever. Stan has every right to sue re. characters that he created, just like the Siegel and Shuster families are suing."

Leaving aside "niche" for the moment, and assuming this addresses my comment that Lee sued Marvel, whereas Moore has sued no-one, you make several errors here - and seem to misunderstand fully the 'work-for-hire' contract, and where it applies. First: Moore does NOT own ABC - WildStorm does. Moore (and O'Neill) retained only The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, hence LoEG is now published by Top Shelf, and DC/WildStorm occasionally continue publishing ABC titles with other authors. Second, broadly-speaking that is correct, most companies (especially DC & Marvel) have work produced under w-f-h agreements, which means that the company owns the work not the creators. They do now often offer royalties as acknowledgement that the work was that of the creators, even if the whole is owned by the company. But not everything works like that - and the opposite, that novel characters are not w-f-h is not automatically correct. Thirdly, V for Vendetta was NOT work-for-hire, it was created by Moore and Lloyd for UK anthology Warrior, and sold on to (and completed for) DC. Like Watchmen, Moore feels that DC misrepresented themselves in negotiating for the publication rights to V. As with Watchmen, he believed that the rights would revert back to himself (and his artists) at some point; they have not. Fourthly, the contracts are complicated, by Siegel & Shuster were NOT under w-f-h agreements when they created Superman, they created him independantly and sold rights to DC. Stan Lee WAS under contract with Marvel (albeit a rather good editorial one) when he co-created his characters; whether Kirby & Ditko et al. were also under fullscale w-f-h agreements is occasionally debated (and certainly they were not sufficiently well reimbursed for the massive rewards their co-creations brought in for Marvel), but reasonably certain. That Marvel settled with Lee meant more that they prefered not to reopen those questions (and risk losing face with their biggest-named asset) than that he had a firm case as creator: he was under contract.

Moore was not under Marvel (US) contract when he wrote Captain Britain; he was not under DC contract when he began writing V; he had negotiated an almost-brand-new deal for Watchmen; he negotiated with Jim Lee rights and ownership of his ABC works, etc., etc. His mainstream DCU work was produced under work-for-hire agreements, but everything else is much more complex - including titles published by DC.

"I may be a bit biased but I always felt that the writer was the most important part of the equation anyway. Comics are a visual medium, but I think that it's been proven that it's the stories and the actions and behaviour of the charatcers that keeps the fans coming back." "He [Lee] didn't write for Kirby and Ditko, he created the charatcers that they visualised."

Some and some. Obviously many fans follow characters rather than writers, and will buy Batman and Spider-man regardless of writer. Equally obviously the Image defection (and before that, the seeds to it in the titles launched by Marvel to capitalise on the "hot"ness of Lee, Liefeld, McFarlane, etc.) proved that 'readers' and fans will follow artists as much as they follow writers - more often, in many cases, actually. But as far as "the writer [being] the most important part of the equation," that holds true for Moore far more than it does for Lee. Lee worked under the Marvel Method, whereby he would talk over the broad story themes with his artistic collaborators (to a greater or lesser degree; sometimes his whole summaries could be a mere paragraph, with the rest of the plot created by the artist), and THEY would draw up the issue(s) for him to dialogue afterwards. In those cases, the "stories and actions and behaviour of the characters" owed as much to the artist's artwork as to Lee's words. Lee did not create the characters, Lee AND HIS ARTIST(S) created the characters together, and then Lee wrote words set to the visualised characters the artist(s) produced.

"You're right that truly original characters are uncommon, but that's my point, the creators who have been able to reach into the craziness of their imagination and create something timeless are the guys that are truly special." "What makes a character iconic is the substance and how they relate to the reader."

Among the few new heroes and stories that have been granted timeless and iconic status in recent years, however, Moore's works stand head and shoulders above his peers... Neither Moore nor Lee are "almighty sage"s. Both are good writers and ideas men. Moore is a better writer, but less prolific; both are great - novel and derivitive - ideas men. You'll notice, for example, that the status and reach of Watchmen and V and From Hell (particularly) far outweigh their series' shortness. Moreover, Moore's rare forays into company-owned characters gave us "The Killing Joke" (Tom Burton's favourite Batman story, supposedly) in whose pages Barbara Gordon was crippled in a near-permanent change to the Bat-universe, and the Joker received a deliberately-ambiguous-but-still-widely-accepted origin story; "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" which wrapped up the Silver Age Man of Steel and has been reprinted a dozen times in a variety of formats which bely its pre-Crisis, 'Imaginary Story', two-issue origins; "For The Man Who Has Everything" one of very few comics-based stories to be adapted into the Animated DCU and again widely reprinted and featuring Mongul is his best-known appearance (held over from pre-Crisis into post-Crisis continuity, no less) and Swamp Thing, which moved comics foward in so many ways, birthed Hellblazer and helped birth Vertigo as a whole. Captain Britain took a minor hero and revamped him by British creators for all comics fans to great acclaim, in the process giving Marvel its Universe-designation: Earth-616.

Elsewhere, "if you have any friends who read 2000AD a lot in the early 80s to early 90s, just ask them who their top characters were..." and one popular answer is Halo Jones. Both among 2000AD fans, writers, artists and critics. The popularity and 'mainstreamness' of Moore's work in the Galaxy's Greatest Comic is evidenced by fan mail, the several storylines for Halo and DR & Quinch (and the appearance of the latter characters post-Moore), and the planned subsequent stories for Halo that Moore and Gibson had plotted (at the behest of the editors) before Moore asked that he be in turn granted (co-)ownership of his own (co-)created character, rather than have their work be owned corporately. Incidentally, 2000ADOnline has removed the "Thrill Power" percentages, but Moore was almost-perpetually not just second in the rank of writers (behind Wagner), but second overall. Ahead (just) of Bolland, Ezquerra, McMahon, Mills, etc. They also used to have a "Top Thrills" section: Halo Jones Books 1 & 3 placed in the top twenty (checking via the Internet Archive places Book 3 at #9, Book 1 at #16), as did DR & Quinch (#15). Their popularity far outweighing their brief stay...

"Somebody like Moore essentially writes for already established characters..." ...on rare occasions. Mostly at the start of his career, and to make money from the Image guys. And even then, his biggest work for Image subsidiaries was Supreme, where he rewrote the character thoroughly as an antidote to gloomy, grim and dark heroism. His major DC-published works are Swamp Thing (which he made his own), Watchmen and V. His major (and almost-only) Marvel-published work is Captain Britain. His major 2000AD-published works are Halo Jones, DR & Quinch, Skizz and - at a push - 'Future Shocks'. All his own work (bar Skizz, a deliberately-styled E.T. pastiche).

"Of course artists "quality of work" stays the same, while writers' deteriorates. That's a result of the nature of the disciplines. Drawing a comic book is essentially mechanical, whereas writing an engaging, thought provoking, or even just readable story isn't as mechanical and can't always be reporoduced like a brush stroke."

Many more artists burn out than writers. And/or evolve their art style. I suspect most - and most fans - would also take issue with their drawing being "essentially mechanical," too. If some art is 'cranked out,' so too is some writing. The more creative artists and writers have to struggle and work hard to maintain consistency and output over the years. Kirby and Ditko did their best (and best-known) work at Marvel from the 1960s, although Kirby's Jimmy Olsen and New Gods stories for DC created an entirely new Universe/Universal dynamic there, and are important. With Joe Simon, he created Captain America long before Stan Lee reintroduced him into the Avengers, and also co-created for DC the Challengers of the Unknown (pre-F4), The Demon, Kamndi, OMAC and the Newsboy Legion. Ditko worked extensively for Charlton, and created or re-launched Captain Atom, Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), The Question, The Creeper, Hawk and Dove, and Shade, the Changing Man among others. All of whom have played a greater or lesser role in comics, and as part of the modern DCU.

Incidentally, writing that "Until ABC comics takes the comics world by storm... and New Gods comes roaring back..." rather suggests that you haven't noticed that Dynamite picked up on Tom Strong's reintroduction of the Nedor heroes for Alex Ross' Project Superpowers titles. Nor that the New Gods (and Darkseid) have played a reasonably important role in the DCU of late. Moreover, the rediscovery of the Nedor & Lev Gleason characters (et al.) can serve to point out some long-forgotten characters than pre-date some occasionally-superficially-similar Marvel heroes...!

ntnon 9/7/2009 11:17:11 PM

johnnykricardo: "His [Moore's] attitude towards the films based on his work are unique in the comics business now, but is normal for writers to despise the way other people turns their works into a film... Some writers even refuse to be adapted at all. He just can't stop them because he doesn't own the rights. And truth is, most of his work wouldn't translate too well to the screen (Lost Girls). Add to that his sour time in Hollywood. Frank Miller too gave up on films before Sin City."

Interestingly, Miller's journey is almost the opposite of Moore's. Although it is somewhat accurate to say that films can be made without Moore's input, he did personally sell/assign the rights to LoEG and From Hell, and I think he also would have had an initial say in Watchmen. V for Vendetta was probably originally his choice, too. He was initially ambivalent about film versions - reasonably happy for them to exist, if baffled at the 'need', because they were separate in his mind from the original and TRUE work. That ability to separate the two, particularly as the cinema-going public have some difficulty, and especially when legal people decided to lump the two together (LoEG/"LXG"), deteriorated over time, and now he demands his name removed and will have nothing at all to do with film adaptations - even refusing the money.

Stan Lee was also regularly cited as creator - not even co-creator, which is also inaccurate! - of Captain America. Including on at least one film advertisement (possibly for a TVM or the 1990 film)...

 

"Alan Moore's work is mostly a comment. He's a critic, finding what it's dark and horrible in every single hero. Whereas Kurt Busiek is an analysis on the nature of heroism. The most popular writer right now, Geoff Johns seems hellbent on telling us how awesome was the Silver Age, reanimating corpses left and right."

Um. Respectfully disagree. Moore may be both a critic and critical of superheroes, but certainly his deconstructionism is nothing to do with "finding what is dark and horrible" inside heroes. I assume you base that on Swamp Thing, Watchmen and Miracleman, with varying degrees of accuracy, and ignoring (for example) Supreme, Superman (FTMWHE, WHTTMOT?), Tom Strong, 1963, Top Ten and Tomorrow Stories. Swamp Thing in no way "finds" the dark and horrible parts of that (non-)hero - not least because Swamp Thing was always a horror character! Moore merely reinvigorated the stories he told with actual, modern and updated situations. After deconstructing and reconstructing the title character and holding forth on the nature of being, identity and related themes. Watchmen was about bringing (a form of) reality to superheroics, not about deliberately making it dark and horrible, except as it naturally would be when set against the backdrop of the troubling Thatcher/Reagan years. That death and supervillainy happen in comics, and films, and books makes Watchmen a logical progression and technical masterpiece - not a darkening, nasty take on heroes. Indeed, the story is ultimately a positive one in many readings. Marvelman too was about reimagining and updating the cliches of the Golden/Silver Age hero into a form of modern reality. Where superpowers and the abuse of them can naturally lead to widespread destruction - but not as a cheap exercise in making 'light' heroes 'dark', but as an attempt to reconcile facile childish storytelling with deeper, more adult (in the best sense of the word) themes and styles.

Meanwhile, Supreme returned "Superman" to a - still modern, 'real' and 'adult' - more carefree (Silver) age of excitement and adventure, later expanded (if back-tracked to the Pulp heroes) in Tom Strong, which is excellent, excellent work. 1963, Top Ten and many of the Tomorrow Stories also showcased Moore's skills in being able to tell a range of stories in a range of styles, rather than just bringing darkness and evil to his works. There are deaths and 'bad things' in his works, but there is more happiness and respect for the characters (his own and others') than anything else. The twelve issues of Top Ten feature a range of humorous tales intercut with pathos and seriousness, featuring friendship, love, death, change, evolution, the mundane, the super (in every sense) against stories of action, adventure and police procedural (etc., etc.). Tomorrow Stories demonstrated (again) his skill with different styles of (short) story, and 1963 was a genuine (or satirical, or mean-spirited, or inaccurate, or accurate - depending on who you ask) attempt to recapture, dissect and/or reinvigorate the madcap ideas of early Marvel comics.

Geoff Johns is definitely drawing on the past for most of his work (as all good writers do), and Kurt Busiek is probably at his best when writing about different shades of hero. But Moore is absolutely not a one-note writer, definitely not just a critic, and certainly not just about doom, dark and horribleness.

LucidFrenzy 9/8/2009 10:29:05 AM

 Ntnon, thanks for bringing a rare moment of sense to these comments. Agree with almost all of what you say. Just one thing, though...

Without being either individual [Lee or Kirby], its difficult to tell how one-sided these stories are...

Of course this is undeniable. However, we can look at the subsequent work of Lee, Kirby and Ditko to give us an insight into what each man was contributing. Awesome and almost pulverisingly imaginative as New Gods is, there is something a bit too frenetic (and simultaneously hermetic) about it. There was more pace to the Fantastic Four, more light and shade, more balance between big and small, which suggests to me Kirby's powerful imagination worked better with at least an editor, even if he didn't necessarily need a writer.

But perhaps the most telling factor for Lee is what he did with Spider-man after Ditko left. All the angst, all the sense of a young man trying to make his way in a hostile world, leaves with him. Of course Lee may have been writing for Romita at that point, but the transformation from nerdy outsider to cool Sixties kid, and the corrective eye surgery way before its time, suggests to me that it was Lee who associated Marvel with Sixties youth culture. Of course that was more than merely a marketing device. But from their subsequent output I'd argue Lee's contribution was present but the least of the three.

 

ntnon 9/8/2009 10:57:53 PM

LucidFrenzy: "However, we can look at the subsequent work of Lee, Kirby and Ditko to give us an insight into what each man was contributing..." is certainly a valid opinion. And why I deliberately chose the word "difficult" rather than "impossible". Certainly an independant individual can sit in judgement based on extraneous facts - before and after works, related (and unrelated) comments, and slightly vaguer adjudications of honesty and hypocrisy.

Certainly it would seem ridiculous to suggest (as has been, in times past) that Lee brought nothing to the partnerships. Similarly, since he was 'writing' so many titles, and so many of do hold up far better than one might expect forty years later, he clearly had a considerable talent. Hype being a large part of it, but hype that worked.

The Fourth World certainly shows (as if proof were needed post-Simon&Kirby) that Kirby and creativity went hand-in-hand, even if his imagination perhaps was never again as fertile as with Lee at Marvel. Equally clearly, producing his own dialogue un-edited did not lead him to produce his best work. Many commentators have suggested that Lee (and probably the Bullpen artists, too) worked far better when there was a certain amount of tension involved for each to spar against and aspire to bigger and better things.

It's also been suggested that Peter Parker may well have included a considerable amount of Steve Ditko in his visual appearance and (early) characterisation... His 'transformation' was likely as much a sign of the times and an attempt to increase sales as indicative of the respective input of writer or artist, however. It's all a melting pot, and probably as tough for the individuals involved to say 'who did what' and 'how much' as it for later commentators and critics.

Both Moore and Lee owe much of their respective comics' success to the interplay of writer and artist. Lee probably owes more; Moore probably acknowledges it more.

LucidFrenzy 9/9/2009 9:41:58 AM

 Ntnon, once again I can only make minor quibbles over your comments.

The Fourth World certainly shows (as if proof were needed post-Simon&Kirby) that Kirby and creativity went hand-in-hand, even if his imagination perhaps was never again as fertile as with Lee at Marvel.

I'm not sure if I don't find Kirby's imagination working more overtime in the Fourth World saga, but that may be merely because its running more unchecked. At times it can be a little like reading a precis rather than a story, you're perpetually bombarded with new characters and concepts.

[Peter Parker's] 'transformation' was likely as much a sign of the times and an attempt to increase sales as indicative of the respective input of writer or artist, however.

Of course you're (at the very least) part right there. But the idea that comic characters could be (to use a rather dated term) 'hip' starts early with Marvel. I think its easy to underestimate now how novel an idea that was back then. Odd then that Marvel's other great innovation was to introduce more horror/monster tropes to superhero stories.

It's all a melting pot, and probably as tough for the individuals involved to say 'who did what' and 'how much' as it for later commentators and critics.

From my own (vastly inferior) attempts to create comics, I've often found it hard to work out who did what from a collaboration afterwards. I suppose a kind of synergy just takes over.

hardcoreporn1111 9/10/2009 10:33:17 AM

Yeah, he's an asshole. Most geniuses I've run into tend to be that way. I imagine it's like living in a world with blind people and you're the only with sight.

 

Fuck it!

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