Friday, 24 July 2009

steve Bissette is interviewed at the AV Club. He goes all the way back to the beginning, to the days before we took to hanging each other out to dry in public (Bissette vs Moore, Sim vs Smith etc):
AVC: 1963 was also your last project with Moore. What exactly was the beef with him? You’ve mentioned it was prompted by your interview with The Comics Journal.

SB: I don’t know what pissed him off. I think what happened was, I talked about business practices. I really got into the nuts and bolts of the limitations of working comics as a writer. And what examples do I have to draw from? I mean, look at my career. The main writer I’ve worked with is Alan Moore.
The interview hadn’t seen print yet. I sent copies to anyone I mentioned by name, of the transcript of the interview with a cover letter, saying “If anything upsets you, I will take it out. If there’s anything I got wrong, I will change it. Please read this, go over it, and let me know.” Alan, I never heard from. But when Neil [Gaiman] saw him, Alan…
The problem with trotting this thing out for the police line-up every few years is that the witnesses tend to make very firm decisions about who was the nice guy and who was the bastard, as in the comments following the interview, while everyone, including Steve, has forgotten what the crime was supposed to be. Alan and Steve had so much more going on than the stuff that included me, so my guess as to what upset Alan is likely to be way off. One thing I do know is that in Alan's universe everything that is true is sayable. Alan would only have objected to an untruth.
One thing that always stuck in my mind is that I was the one pressing for From Hell's removal from Steve's anthology Taboo, while Alan stood firmly and loyally (to Steve) for seeing out the sentence. Taboo, you see, was a quarterly anthology that came out once a year. That became one of my quiver of humorous soundbites, like 'From Hell is a penny dreadful that costs 35 bucks.' Steve always bristled when I would write that about Taboo, but these are the statistics: #1 Nov '88, #2 Sept '89, #3 Mar '90, #4 Feb '91, #5 Jan '92, #6 July '92, #7 late '92. There aren't as many as twelve months between any two issues, but nor is there more than one issue per calendar year in the four years '88, '89, '90, '91. Watchmen came out more or less monthly and was packed together two years after being launched. From Hell, its follow-up, had the potential to make waves in the world but it was being held back by this serialization arrangement. Steve and I were and are friends, but I had to come out and say that our book wasn't going to amount to anything in the world until it got up and left home. Alan took Steve's side in this argument, for the simple reason that Alan had said fourteen chapters, with a prologue and an epilogue, all in Taboo, and he intended to be exact to his word, no matter how long it took.

Steve has so many cockeyed justifications for not finishing his epic Tyrant, the biography of a dinosaur (he got four issues of the 24 page comic out in three years), that if you sit through a session of listening to them you will lose the will to live. The orders for his first issue were around 24,000 if I remember correctly. Steve thought it was a catastrophe and got out of the business. My orders started at 8,500 and I did well for seven years after that. If i tell him that, he will come up with ten advantages I had that he never had. But the simple fact is that if Steve had continued to work on Tyrant for half an hour every day while making a living doing other things, he would have had a completed project years ago and publishers would have fought and still be fighting each other to have a part of it. But he would have to finish it first, because no publisher would commission it with an advance payment. None of them would hope to live so long. And if done according to my suggestion, It would be a magnificent piece of work and a tribute to his talent and vision.


When I published How to be an Artist, from which the above panels of Steve Bissette are an excerpt, I fretted that more than one person would be upset and I was going to be in trouble. But Steve was the only one to express hurt. Oh well, at least he's still talking to me.

ps. Steve mentioned me on his blog a couple of weeks back, (The latest bout of selective blindness is Eddie Campbell’s interview...) taking me to task for not crediting himself and Taboo for their part in the From Hell story. My justification would be that the interview exists specifically to draw attention to my upcoming book, and I only said what was necessary to efficiently achieve the purpose, not unlike the above blog post.

pps. prediction. Steve will write 500 words in the comments, during which time he could hypothetically have drawn a panel of Tyrant.

ppps update: more baloney in the comments, so do read them: "The only good thing about the Especiale was the tequila lollies he got hold of to use as a promotional thing. Little oblong blocks of clear candy, each one with a worm in it. I wanted to bring them up the pub when i got home, for a laff, but I chickened at the thought of attempting to sneak them through the notoriously strict Australian Customs and gobbled the lot on the plane."

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Allan said...

I remember being quite excited about Tyrant -- all of my favorite black and white self-publishers had talked it up so! and didn't Mr. Bissette do all that great work for Swamp Thing? I have a glass house where a work ethic is concerned, but I still mourn not seeing more of what he had to give us.

24 July 2009 4:57:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger SRBissette said...

Eddie, good to hear your side as ever.

Your chronology of TABOO always neglects TABOO ESPECIAL, published sans FROM HELL as the chapter wasn't done yet. That was the one year we DID come out like clockwork quarterly, subsidized by Tundra production and printing.

As for the rest -- those four panels are funny, but neglect all else I did during those years (including write a Stoker Award winning novella). Ah, well, it's your joke, I've nothing else to say. You're still a good fellow and one hell of a cartoonist. Take care, thanks for the link to MYRANT.

24 July 2009 7:40:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger SRBissette said...

PS: I completed and published four issues of TYRANT, alone. I got out when Diamond was the only game in town, and forbade relistings -- which is what kept TYRANT orders on the increase issue by issue.

24 July 2009 7:43:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

I suspect you are all insane, and not in the cliche mad artist way but in the train spotters, gotta collect all those fucking little numbers way.

I can't figure out if the insanity is needful to create good comics, or is a result of working on comics.

24 July 2009 9:33:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

24 July 2009 10:06:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

that's funny. I was going to respond to Steve by pointing out that I couldn't draw the 40 page chapter five of From Hell, the Nemesis of Neglect, in three months, so he brought out the Especiale as an in-betweener, but he brought it out so late that the 40 pager was completed and could easily have gone in there, and now I had to wait another eternity for the next one, gnashing my teeth all the while, but i thought somebody might think I'm insane.

The only good thing* about the Especiale was the tequila lollies (to tie in with the tequila bottle on the cover, with an ooroberos in it) he got hold of to use as a promotional thing. Little oblong blocks of clear candy, each one with a worm in it. I wanted to bring them up the pub when i got home, for a laff, but I chickened at the thought of attempting to sneak them through the notoriously strict Australian Customs and scoffed the lot on the plane.

(kidding, Steve)

24 July 2009 10:09:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

I'd have removed that one too, but i'd be here all day doing it:
ouroberos

24 July 2009 10:10:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger SRBissette said...

Actually, the shot glass was the best thing that came out of ESPECIAL. Those you could have gotten through customs.

Ouroberos, indeed. Is there a communal grog that could be quaffed to induce mass amnesia so we could never bounce this old shit around ever again?

24 July 2009 10:36:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

I go to comic con and this is what I miss? In other news... http://pwbeat.publishersweekly.com/blog/2009/07/24/marvelman-comes-to-marvel/

25 July 2009 12:25:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous wayne beamer said...

I had the wonderful privilege of meeting and spending damn near an hour talking to Steve almost 25 years ago in a long-dead Houston comics store, then later on in Chicago during the Taboo era. In fact, his great friendliness toward me and my Ms. and greater talent was sort of a benchmark by which I measured future contacts with other comics pros. (Yes, Eddie, you always made the grade.)

To say, I deeply miss all the things Steve would've/could've/should've done in comics since he ended Tyrant on his own is an grave understatement. I can only hope he'll find a way to get back there. If not, I'll always treasure our brief visits and his briefer career making great Swampy and horror comics.

PS Taboo was the first comic I wouldn't allow John, my oldest, horror comics-obsessed son, to read until he turned 16. One day, after turning 16, I gave him a couple to read, and he wondered what all the fuss was about...

I'll second the memory-wiping chemicals too...

26 July 2009 3:40:00 pm GMT-5  

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