with essays by Marc Sobel
(Uncivilised Books, 2016)
(from Brighter Than You Think, Ten Short Works By Alan Moore, Uncivilised Books, 2016)
...Taboo was a horror anthology series edited and published by Stephen Bissette. Like Moore's short story [Come On Down], its origin also dates back to 1985 when Moore, Bissette and John Totlebon were still working together on Swamp Thing for DC Comics. While the three creators were enjoying great success with DC, the winds in the industry were shifting and more and more creators were embracing the underground comix model of self-publishing. At the time, no one had achieved more success in the self-publishing arena than the Canadian cartoonist, Dave Sim, the visionary creator and publisher of Cerebus The Aardvark, a series that he had produced entirely on his own since 1977. Inspired by his own experience, Sim was a passionate and outspoken advocate for creator independence and, according to Bissette, in 1985 he, "began extending invitations to a small pool of creators he felt were ready (and needed) to make the plunge into the deep, wide waters of self-publishing. This was part of a creative community re-education process Dave was committed to..." In particular, Sim believed that the Swamp Thing creative team was wasting their talents "renovating, restructuring and making (DC's) defunct corporate property worth something... Dave wanted us to be self-publishers, not feeding the DC machine".
But Sim was not simply encouraging creators with no publishing experience to blindly cast out on their own; he was also committed to helping them do so by building upon his own success. As a result, in 1985, he created a new corporate entity, Aardvark One International, in order to publish work from these creators. In addition to Moore, Bissette and Totlebon, many other creators working for the mainstream publishers, including Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz, were also contacted by Sim.
Bissette and Totlebon were intrigued by Sim's offer. In particular, the two artists were excited about publishing a new kind of horror anthology which would fill a creative void they perceived existed in the industry at the time. Despite the presence of some new alternative horror series in the 1980s like Twisted Tales and Gore Shriek, Bissette felt that "horror comics were in a funk. John and I were finding no fertile ground for our own efforts in these 'new' anthologies, despite our attempts, and found it frustrating that the genuinely innovative horror comic stories were appearing sporadically in non-genre anthologies like RAW or self-published tiles like Chester Brown's Yummy Fur. There was no focal point for these creators and sensibilities to come together; no publisher willing to take the risks necessary to do a genuinely adult horror comic for the 1990s; no title with a point of view or understanding of the genre willing to explore, rather than exploit, its often dangerous potential." In short, Bissette felt that the "evolution of horror comics required something more radical and unfettered" and that he and Totlebon "were audacious enough to think it could be done and that (they) might be the ones to do it". Although Sim was reluctant at first to support an anthology, he eventually agreed and early in 1986, Bissette and Totlebon began contacting potential contributors.
However, just months before Taboo's first issue was scheduled to be printed, a protracted dispute between Sim and Diamond Comics, the largest comic book distributor in the United States, reached its tipping point, resulting in the dissolution of Aardvark One. With so many creators having already contributed to the series, the sudden loss of its publisher at the last second forced Bissette and his wife to scramble to form their own publishing business. Thus, SpiderBaby Grafix was born, hastily created to publish Taboo much the same way Moore had founded Mad Love to publish AARGH!...