Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dave Sim: Thoughts On Vertigo

Unpublished cover for Swamp Thing #88 (1989)
Art by Rick Veitch (with Gustave Dore & Stephen R. Bissette)
(from the annotations to Latter Days, 2003)
Rabbi - who becomes a more integral part of the story at this point - is a parody of a DC Vertigo series written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Steve Dillon which was called Preacher (at sixty-six issues, one of the longest graphic novels in comic-book history) which was recently described by self-confessed Preacher fan, Fred Hembeck, as "full of excessive violence, bad taste, blasphemy, perverse sexual situations, swearing, Oboy, lots of swearing". I was of that minority group for whom the entire Vertigo line was just a strange offshoot of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing - that peculiar generation for whom DC's "axing" of the Jesus Christ issue of Swamp Thing (written by Rick Veitch and drawn by Michael Zulli) was still an inexplicable amputation that books like Preacher, when they came along, only made more inexplicable. I first did Rabbi as a parody poster in the Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing, as an expression of that fundamental confusion. "Jesus Christ in Swamp Thing is not okay, but Preacher is? Okay, how about a character called Rabbi?" It was only when I actually needed a Judaic frame of reference for Cerebus to serve as a bridge from the Book of Rick to the Torah that I thought, "Actually, that's a good point. Why not a character called Rabbi?"
Back-cover, Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing (1997)
Art by Dave Sim
(from 'Newswatch: Rick Veitch Quits Swamp Thing' in The Comics Journal #129, May 1989)
Writer Rich Veitch resigned his assignment on DC Comics' Swamp Thing March 9 after DC President and Editor-In Chief Jenette Kahn refused to publish his previously approved and three quarters pencilled, script for issue 88. Kahn refused Veitch's Morning Of The Magician, the climatic chapter in two years of scripting Swamp Thing, apparently because she believed its portrayal of a meeting between Swamp Thing and Jesus Christ at the Biblical crucifixion "would be offensive to many of our readers." The decision prompted writers Neil Gaiman and Jamie Delano, scheduled to continue the series after Veitch finished his run with issue 92, to decline the assignment.

"...My initial response was I knew I would have to resign," Veitch said. "I knew it instantly, that there was no other way to defend my right of free expression and drive home my dissatisfaction, my contempt, for DC's decision. I had already agreed to make changes, but at that point they were asking me to complete a new script in a week to keep the book on schedule. I was definitely willing to make adjustments, but they didn't want the script, period." According to a press release issued by former Swamp Thing artist Stephen Bissette on behalf of Veitch, [Karen] Berger claimed "an unnamed Warner Executive reaffirmed Kahn's decision." Veitch confirmed that discussion, adding that Berger had told him that "two years ago, we could have published this story" but couldn't now because "the current political climate [determines] we can't have a religious icon with a monster in a comic book."

1 comment:

Mr. Preece said...

I recall this being a major flap at the time. But I didn't and still don't agree with Veitch's claim to a "right" of free expression...not when you're working for hire on someone else's property.

I believe fully in free expression. But I don't quite agree my rights include someone else paying for it or exposing themselves to risk over it. DC wasn't exactly in the 'free expression' business. You're hired to make their properties sellable. If the owner doesn't want to take a risk, then you have to accept that decision.

My question is whether Veitch was going to be paid for both scripts--the accepted-then-rejected one and the newer one. He has every right to be paid fully for both since the first one was approved. (I don't recall this being addressed.)

Daniel Preece