Ruminating on the year past, cartoonist/educator Steve Bissette considers the story of how creator-owned comics can be sunk by just one stuck cog — in this case a rather large cog named Alan Moore. Just to bring everyone up to speed, 1963 was a very early Image project re-imagining the origins of Marvel, written by Moore and illustrated by Steve Bissette, John Totleben, and Rick Veitch, with additional art by Dave Gibbons, Don Simpson, and Jim Valentino and published in 1993. The final issue was to have been illustrated by Jim Lee, but Lee took time off in the middle, Moore decided not to finished it and…blah blah blah. Time passes. And, Bissette and Moore have a bit of a falling out, as chronicled in a series of interviews, here and there.
However, last year, a 1963 follow-up — Tales of the Uncanny – N-Man & Friends: A Naut Comics History Vol. 1 — was to be produced by Bissette and published by Image. Well, things didn’t work out, as Bissette posts. In addition, there was to be a reprint of 1963. After months of negotiations, Moore “pulled the plug” — meaning 1963 will never be reprinted ever again.
And ironically — given our rant earlier today about work for hire — Bissette has found the WFH has paid him far more than creator-owned comics over the year. In the spirit of equal time:
So, consider this:
In creator co-ownership, one partner can forever and willfully deep-six any future in any co-owned work—even completed, published work, that still has perceived or potential market value.
That, too, is part of creator ownership, and co-ownership, and creator rights, and must be taken into account in any discussion of the subject.
All of us who worked hard on 1963 back in 1992–93 earned whatever we would or will ever earn from that work back in 1993, and that was that.
We will never see a dime from any of that work again, while the quarterly royalties from the DC/Vertigo collected Swamp Thing editions (for which I wrote two book introductions in 2011, more on that in a moment) and John Constantine/Hellraiser arrive, for the most part, like clockwork.
If you had told the Bissette of 1990 that he’d never see a dime on any work done with Alan save the work-for-hire collaborative ventures we’d already put behind us by 1990, the Bissette of 1990 would have laughed and spit and ranted about the evils of work-for-hire.
Both Alan Moore and Steve Bissette qualify as…principled individuals who adhere strongly to their own belief systems. And Moore is undoubtedly one of the major literary figures of his time. He is also, to put it mildly, not always interested in the financial affairs of his past collaborators.
Bissette still hopes to publish Tales of the Uncanny sometime next year.
Mystery Incorporated © and TM Alan Moore and Rick Veitch. Inside Image cover by art by Rick Veitch and Dave Gibbons.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.