Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Alan Moore: Waking In A Boiling Rage

Alan Moore (2011)
DAVE SIM:
(from Al Nickerson's Creaotor's Bill Of Rights Blog, 27 December 2005)
...Clearly Paul Levitz can't do enough in a corporate-obligation-to-the-Time-Warner-shareholders sense than to try and make Alan Moore happy and clearly no one has had a greater failure rate in his attempts to do so as can be seen by Heidi [MacDonald]'s interview with Alan. I really can't emphasize strongly enough that creators take a hard look at what Alan is saying and actually try to absorb it rather than just going ballistic and heading for the metaphorical hills. As he wrote in the dedication in my copy of the Graphitti Designs hardcover of Watchmen:
"If you want to picture how perfect this would have been without a DC logo anywhere, try to imagine what ‘Workingman’s Dead’ would have sounded like if Jerry Garcia had all his fingers. Best wishes, respect and admiration always Alan Moore"
Note Alan didn't write anything along the lines of "Just imagine how much money this book brings into my bank account every year, double it and you're not even close. Much loov, Alan Moore". Although I'm reasonably sure that that would have been accurate as well. I mean, linking this to Colleen Doran's comments -- which are very succinct and very closely reasoned on the subject of work-made-for-hire, its pluses and minuses versus creator ownership and control -- I think she misses the point that she owns A Distant Soil and that that makes a lot of difference in areas where neither she nor I have the experience that Alan does where, as he says to Heidi: "it's whether I'm waking up at four in the morning in a boiling rage or not, and there is no amount of money that can compensate for that." I mean this is a nutcracker for Alan Moore wannabe's. Do you seriously believe that the writer of Watchmen and V for Vendetta is just, you know, being needlessly cranky and belligerent about his relationship with DC? That he needs to take a hard look at his bank account and realize that DC's Moolah is the best thing that ever happened to him and to take a downer or smoke a spliff and, you know, chill? I don't wake up at four in the morning in a boiling rage and I don't think Colleen Doran wakes up at four in the morning in a boiling rage either and I suspect that it's for the exact reason that we own a vast amount of our own work. Alan feels as if some of his fingers are missing and I wish more creators would pay attention to that. I have no idea where the balance point is -- I have virtually all of my own metaphorical fingers -- the work-made-for-hire stuff that I've done wouldn't fill a large business envelope and the Cerebus originals that we own, Gerhard informs me, would reach three storeys in height if they were in one pile -- and Colleen has most of her metaphorical fingers and (pretty clearly) all the ones that really matter to her -- but clearly there's a balance that's not just wanted, but needed. Neither man nor woman lives by work-made-for-hire alone. There came a memorable point in the 1980s where Frank Miller suddenly realized he had been working in comics for (however many) years and all that he owned was one story that he had done in Bizarre Adventures or some such. One five or seven-page story out of the hundreds of pages he had drawn that were largely financing the comic-book field (and which have since founded a Hollywood blockbuster or two). The result, for Frank, was the need to create his own comic book: Sin City...

...It was Alan who sold ABC to Jim Lee. ABC could have been Alan's Sin City but not after he sold it to somebody. As soon as you sell it somebody it's behind bars and all you can do is go and visit it wherever it's imprisoned and work on it with your hands thrust through the bars or leave it to someone else to do so. But, I think I'm safe in saying that that is a leading cause of waking up at four in the morning in a boiling rage. Presumably Frank Miller has those sorts of experiences with Dark Knight Returns and DK2 and presumably he doesn’t with Sin City and 300 and the other things he owns. If you have to go ballistic over my saying that, at least please take it with you when you run for the metaphorical hills and think about it!...

4 comments:

hb said...

I don't think Alan Moore felt like he was missing fingers, I just think he meant it would be better w/o the DC logo, like the GD's LP would be "better" if JG had an his amputated finger intact to play even better guitar.

Lee Bentley said...

I think it must be true that only a subset of the population can successfully and happily run their own business; say, 20%. And the ratio for creative artists is probably lower, based only on my own experiences. I don't know enough about ABC to know why A. Moore sold it, but I can only guess that he found the work of running a publishing company oppressive...awful work, especially, if you don't *have* to do it, or aren't driven to do so. The temptation to just find an employer and avoid all the extra hassle must be tremendous.

Now imagine you're employed to edit Alan Moore stories. One might think you'd just check to make sure the pages are all there, legible and in the right order, turn the f***ers in and enjoy some great comics...but editors have authorities to answer to. The temptation to justify meddling in the creative process at the behest of your superiors - as opposed to a genuine contribution, if such a thing is even possible - must also be tremendous. We'd all like to think - I certainly would - that we would be reasonably deferential to Mr. Moore and approach his words with the greatest of respect and regard, but what if he regards our input with outrage and contempt - and, further, that his outrage and contempt were inspired more by his knowledge of his relative helplessness in a work-made-for-hire situation than any specific thing we'd said or done? What a terrible position to be in! What a skill set would be required to manage relations with Mr. Moore so as to avoid his feeling akin to Mr. Garcia and his missing fingers.

Here Dave's solution - self-publishing - is the obvious better choice. (I'm sure Mr. Moore could craft a co-ownership agreement with any number of top-level artists, perhaps akin to that between Dave and Gerhard) and produce work of which he could be proud while enjoying the process. (Of course, I wonder what the difference is beteween awaking at 4:00 AM in a frothing rage because of publisher interferance and waking at 4:00 AM in a freezing sweat because you realize that, due to a typo you forgot to fix, 16,000 issues of "Serbius" #135 are about to be printed and shipped?)

Jeff Seiler said...

Something akin to that, Lee, was the nights in Florida when I was mentally going back over my proofreading of Reads and trying to remember whether or not I had fixed that one clause and did I fix *all* of the paragraph indentations. Of course, *I* got to awake the next morning and go back over it all again...

Kit said...

I don't know enough about ABC to know why A. Moore sold it, but I can only guess that he found the work of running a publishing company oppressive...awful work, especially, if you don't *have* to do it, or aren't driven to do so. The temptation to just find an employer and avoid all the extra hassle must be tremendous.

ABC was never a publishing company. It was to have been an imprint of Homage, via Image, and Moore chose to sell all rights to all the work and characters before said work was done, in order to secure a higher page rate. One might have thought that fifteen years of publicly cautioning anyone who would listen to heed the lessons of Siegel & Shuster might have prepared himself for this eventuality, but no. Lee sold Homage, and all attendant intellectual property, to Moore's greatest publishing nemesis before the first book saw print.

(Note that LoEG was never designed as an ABC book, but was separately contracted to Homage; this is why Moore & O'Neill retain ownership on that series.)