Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Why In Pictopia Has No Author

This is the last communication I received from the author of “In Pictopia,” a story I illustrated with the help of Mike Kazaleh and Pete Poplaski, beautifully colored by Eric Vincent, in 1986 (as I was making the transition from Megaton Man to Border Worlds and then obscurity). The story originally appeared in Anything Goes #2, published by Fantagraphics Books in December, 1986 (a benefit book for their now-legendary legal hassles), and later collected in Fantagraphics’ Best Comics of the Decade, Volume I (June 1986). In 2021, Fantagraphics Underground issued what I consider the definitive edition of the story, but without the author’s name.


When the author granted permission to reprint the story but with the condition that his name not appear on the outside of the book or in any publicity for it, I agreed (although legally there was no such requirement to honor such an inane request) under the assumption that the author could be reasoned with and eventually persuaded to change his mind; this turned out to be a false hope. The rest of the story of my 35-year curatorship over this now-disowned piece of cartooning history is chronicled in my text piece in the FU edition. The following correspondence is dated August 5, 2020. It is presented here for historical purposes only; discuss amongst yourselves.

Hello Donald,

I passed on your message, please find Alan’s reply below.

Thanks,

Joe


Dear Don –

While this is a letter that I wish I could avoid writing, I feel that I should state my feelings plainly in order that there be no misunderstandings.

Simply put, my career in comics was not an enjoyable one, nor one that I can look back on with any fondness, sense of genuine accomplishment, or indeed anything except for a wearying depression at having wasted so much of my life in an industry that is, to me, an embarrassment. I’m aware that this is most likely to be seen as further evidence that there is something wrong with me psychologically, rather than that there might be something wrong with comics, but, nevertheless, this is the position that I have ended up in. Other than a very few works by friends or loved ones, I haven’t read or enjoyed any comics in the last couple of decades. Having disowned more than ninety per cent of my comic work, I no longer possess copies of that work, and have no wish to talk about or even think about that over-long period of my life. This is simply because, perhaps selfishly, I have found my life to be much happier and more enjoyable the further I get from the comic field. I really and sincerely, for my own peace of mind, wish to be disassociated from comics and my comics career.
I haven’t wanted anything to do with Gary Groth and Fantagraphics since the 1990s. This was when they first published an interview with Steve Bissette – who, at the time, was seeing a therapist about his pathological lying, or at least that’s what he told me – in which he listed all of my apparent tyrannies on the 1963 project, presumably to publicise his then-current dinosaur comic. This was the end of my relationship with Bissette, and the reason why I asked for my name to be removed from any further editions of the 1963 title. Gary Groth followed this interview, I’m told, with an editorial stating that it was my personal greed that had ruined comics. When, inevitably, I was contacted by The Comics Journal some months later to ask whether I wanted to do another circulation-boosting interview with the fanzine, I politely declined, explaining that I felt our points of view had diverged to such a point that I saw no value in any further interviews. This prompted a phone call from Groth where he explained that his editorial had been written with “a tone of regret.” As I informed him then, to say that he regretted that my greed had ruined comics was, if anything, more condescending than his original attention-grabbing statement. I repeated, I think politely, that I thought it best if I had nothing further to do with him or his publishing concern. This, apparently, resulted in retaliatory negative reviews of my subsequent work, which tended to confirm my opinions and to further alienate me from what I was starting to see as a juvenile industry with more than its fair share of unprincipled opportunists.
When you asked if Fantagraphics could publish an edition of In Pictopia, I didn’t want to deny you the chance to republish what was a very good strip with excellent artwork, and thus suggested that you publish it without my name, and that you and the other people who worked on it should share any monies between yourselves. You first sent a message suggesting that I use a pseudonym from a piece of unpublished work that I’d forgotten about, and so I sent another message hoping to clarify my position. This time you replied asking why I hadn’t said that in the first place – I thought I had – and stating that you were going to drop the project. If that was your decision, then I figured that was fair enough, and that this was the end of the matter. I next received a message from Gary Groth saying that he would respect my wishes regarding the removal of my name, and, in what I suppose was his regretful tone, asking me to remember “our time in the foxholes together.” I am unable to remember any such time. All I recall is a certain amount of work done without expectation of payment, and then a flurry of snide and underhand backstabbing.
So, while I’m sorry to upset or disappoint someone who I remembered as a friend and a very talented collaborator, I’m afraid that I’m unwilling to change my position on this. I really don’t want anything further to do with comics or with my work in that field. I certainly don’t want my script reprinting. If this project cannot go ahead without my name attached, then I really think it best if you follow your first impulse and drop the project altogether. It’s entirely up to you, but whatever your decision, I’d be grateful if I didn’t have to hear any more about it. This is nothing personal, and is entirely a result of my gradually worsening relationship with the comics business.

With apologies, and my very best to you and yours,

Alan Moore

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11 comments:

  1. Whew! I'm sorry Alan's time in comics left such a bad taste in his mouth, as he remains one of my favorite comic book writers. And if it results in your superb collaboration...with or without Alan Moore's name on it...not getting the attention it deserves, Don, that's especially disappointing. Sorry to hear it.

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  2. Well he has earned the right to do what gives him peace of mind.

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    1. It always kills me to read about "rights" and never "responsibilities." Another toxic member for the Alan Moore Amen Corner. Thanks for your two cents!

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  3. I doubt very seriously that comics or Hollywood is responsible for the author's disquieted mind; my guess is it goes much further back than that. And no, he hasn't earned the right to shit on collaborators or break promises to fans and retailers who would still pay to see a proper ending for 1963.

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  4. As I said on Facebook this morning:

    It's easy to fall into language of what a creator has a right to or is entitled to. In this case, I am convinced its complete enabling horseshit. As I state in the new publication text, one traditionally removed one's name from a work because it that work had been altered beyond recognition and no longer represented the idea the author had signed his or her name to. That's difficult to argue for the definitive, remastered edition of the work.

    And one certainly doesn't have the right to walk away from 1963 after pocketing half a million dollars from readers and retailers who were promised an annual to complete the work just because Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee were luring him away with whole millions, and multi-millions. There simply is no material reason, no overwhelming adversity, to prevent 1963 from being completed, even now.

    As for the author's stated "reasons," no one has been able to verify anywhere in the Comics Journal or anywhere else where the author was maligned as he recalls. In fact, I can't think of a figure from work-for-hire comics who has less to complain about. Imagine if the rights to Watchmen had reverted to the author; it would be out of print these last thirty years instead of available at Walmart. Taking out completely imaginary gripes and grudges on a creator-owned project like 1963, or "In Pictopia" does nothing to avenge Jack Kirby or anyone else the author thinks he is standing up for; it certainly doesn't harm New York or Hollywood.

    The author is ashamed of his historical association with comics; I'm ashamed to think the public sees this author as in any way representing creator-owned comics.

    https://www.facebook.com/donald.simpson.524

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  5. What was the pseudonym and the unpublished work that Moore refers to?

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    1. I shed light on this in a livestream: https://youtu.be/8lYXCVveyck

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    2. Hello Don, I well remember carrying Megaton Man as well as Border Worlds back when I still had comic book stores. I have done a lot of research on creator-owned, royalty-paying comic books for some time now. The nexus origin of the concept is Print Mint taking Zap Comics #2 plus expanded page counts of Zap #1 and #0 in to national distribution April 1968

      My one encounter with Alan Moore was San Diego i guess his only appearance in 1985. This lanky Brit guy walks up to my boxes of tables asking for every appearance of the bottle city of Kandos, Superman Emergency Squad, Nightwing and Flamebird, etc

      This guy and I really get down in to the minutiae of this aspect of the decades long Superman mythos re=defined numerous times over the past 80+ years now

      This Brit had a list of wants to score which was fairly normal back in the day when 9.8 NM slab coffins did not fuel run the vintage comics market

      I kept blowing his brain pulling out many other more obscure appearances down to single panel cameos which really ran his wonderment wagon

      Thing is, a rather huge crowd had gathered round us in an ever widening half circle. Some on the outer parameters were digging elbows in to the tops of the boxes which I over the minutes grew annoyed and began whacking said elbows saying "You buying your damage?"

      For much of our intense Mort era geek out, I had no idea who this tall guy with an accent was. I am rather glad for that lapse in knowledge at that moment in time.

      Enabled me to go one on one as I would any other 'normal' comic book collector. (ie Me showing off a bit my then deep knowledge wisdom of most every comic book published from Famous Funnies #1 1934 onwards) thru 1985

      An employee good friend of mine the late much missed by his friends Mark Stichman and I taught the newer ones coming in to work inside Best of Two Worlds on Telegraph Ave near UC-Berkeley that interior knowledge of the "product" was essential market research enabling higher sales averages over time

      I always taught all my employees, some of whom went on to open their own (mostly) successful comic book stores to follow and sell the creators, not the characters, title, or company

      Now, I had been a huge fan of WARRIOR published by Dez Skinn importing from #1 onwards. Each next issue order I simply was doubling in number order count. This went on for several issues until I settled in to topping out at 800 an issue

      Mark Stichman, myself, plus a slew of regular customer readers were all talking *why* Warrior had gone so, for lack of better term, "hot" as I also began searching inside Comics Buyer's Guide overnight air freight issue ordering every first half dozen issues were put there for sale

      The one name which was intersecting every one's wavelengths was some guy named Alan Moore.

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    3. Moore Part Two (4000 character limit)

      After about half an hour it began to dawn on my just who I was evidently doing a two person street fair impromptu comedy act with. There had been much laughter as he and I relived our almost exact same time line memories of that fun stuff late 50s thru mid 60s.

      Innocence growing up quick as realit3s of the world set in on those of us born 1950-1954 being drafted in the USA. UK was beginning to comprehend end of empire as USA took off

      Alan and I laughed a lot of back then believing those Weisinger edited "Imaginary" stories were just that. Because all the other issues of Superman's family of titles were "Real" !!

      We were both being 7 to 9 or so there for a short period in time going thru what turned out to be Me having every issue but one on his want list. Plus many others he had no idea (then) existed

      Plus Alan also made a solid stab at most of my Bizarro appearances like Adventure 285-299 (classic!) I had on hand.

      This back then comics collectors came by the steadily growing thousands armed with want lists was San Diego.

      By the mid 1970s onwards San Diego supplanted most folks wanting to set up a comics world in July New York City

      By the late 70s I well knew which issues sold better, at a faster rate, with great reviews from readers I recommended my faves to.

      This, in turn, fed reader satisfaction which in turn fed customer retention. Because of Alan Moore and my impromptu aisle show, quite a few others of these hangers-on cleaned me out of all Kandor Nightwing Flamebird related comics I had brought down.

      Back in those days one spent much most of the year building up proper turn over stock for San Diego Comicon

      In the early to mid 1980s Best of Two Worlds had more table space that any one in the comics business there in San Diego.

      Next closest was Comic Heaven, John and Rose Verzyl. Those were fun fondly remembered San Diego shows. Up thru El Cortez to the downtown civic center ones.

      The much needed space over in the Republican Party built big convention center allowed for breathing room. Then that center doubled in size itself. Until Covid bursting at its seams

      The later 90s onwards SDCC turned ever more disillusioning to me mainly only on the ever increasing Hollywood Hedge Fund Wall St nature of greed which caused the show to become not profitable, but more an ego stance for some of us who had been setting up at every one since US Grant San Diego Union days onwards.

      A decade ago there were 5 of us left. Now i think all have finally vacated the grind.

      I go in to all this depth only because back in 1985 I re-lived an shared time frame experience with a guy seeking Kandor, etc

      I am told Alan Moore's final two parter Superman & Action cross over story before the John Byrne make-over experiments have elements of the comics I supplied Alan Moore back in SDCC 85.

      Some have positive memories, some have negative memories, of peoples, places, events, etc. back thru each of our time lines.

      Donald E. Simpson, if I am reading your words correctly absorbing them, you became a bit of collateral damage as a result of Mr. Moore's then growing disillusionment with the world of comics.

      For what ever Moore's reasons, like comics genius Steve Ditko's reasonings he placed on to paper for the rest of us to read and try to interpret actual meanings, the reasons make sense to that person.

      The differwnce between Fact and Fiction?
      Fiction has to make sense - (Twain?)



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    4. Thanks, Robert. I'm sure Alan has a genius for retention of minutiae -- he likely only read those comics once. Too bad he can't retain the childlike innocence and give much thought to his fans these days.

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