When Dez Skinn had started Warrior, he wanted the creators to own their own creations, which they all did, more or less. Marvelman was an exception to this, in as much as it had already existed prior to the start of Warrior but was, as far as Skinn was concerned, in the public domain and available to anyone that wished to claim it, who could acquire the rights by the act of publishing it. However, in keeping with the ethos of the magazine, he decided to give the majority of these rights to the creators, so gave Alan Moore and Garry Leach 40% each, keeping the remaining 20% for the publisher, Quality Communications.
Once Alan Davis took over from Leach, however, this arrangement began to cause problems. Although his earlier work on Marvelman was done, not as work-for-hire, but at the usual Warrior rates, Davis was, understandably enough, unhappy to continue to be working on that basis on a magazine where everyone had rights to the properties they were working on except him, so Skinn suggested a compromise situation. If everyone who already owned rights to Marvelman gave Davis 10% each, then he would have 30% of the rights, as would Moore and Leach, leaving Quality with the remaining 10%.
There are other, incorrect, versions of how the percentage share on Marvelman was worked out, sometimes told by the same person at different times. I have also seen the initial share as one-third each for Moore, Leach, and Quality Communications, leading to a quarter each for Moore, Leach, Alan Davis, and Quality later on. Or a version where originally Moore, Leach, and Quality had a third each, Moore and Leach gave Davis 5% each, and Quality handed over 18.3%, leaving Moore, Leach and Davis with 28.3% each, and Quality with 15%. But, as this document shows, it was 40% each for Moore and Leach, and 20% for Dez Skinn in his own name, as of the 3rd of March 1982.
LETTER OF AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE PARTIES HEREIN UNDERSIGNED ON THE 3RD DAY OF MARCH NINETEEN HUNDRED AND EIGHTY TWO
In connection with the characters appearing in WARRIOR Magazine known as Marvelman, YOUNG Marvelman, KID Marvelman, GARGUNZA and the Marvelman FAMILY and any other related concepts initially established during the 1950s and 1960s by the publishers L. Miller & Son Limited.
It is hereby agreed that prior to any development work done on the characters mentioned above and concepts involved, the available copyright on such is divided in the proportions detailed.
This copyright agreement relates only to the basic concepts as they existed initially, before WARRIOR issue one was published and entitles the undersigned to their proportionate percentage of any licensing or merchandising ventures.
This copyright does not entitle the undersigned to any royalty fees for work which appears in WARRIOR or any other Quality Communications publication.
Alan Moore 40% ~~~~ Garry Leach 40% ~~~~ Dez Skinn 20%
Dez Skinn’s suggestion was acceptable all ‘round, so the issue was resolved, although the question of who owned how much of Marvelman would come up again, later on. The two Alans, Moore and Davis, continued to work together on Marvelman, to great acclaim. They were also still working together on Captain Britain for Marvel UK, and they had created DR and Quinch for 2000 AD, which first appeared in issue #317 on the 21st of May, 1983. Alan Moore and Alan Davis were the most highly regarded writer and artist team in British comics, regularly winning awards for their work together, and seemed set to go on forever. It was almost inevitable that something would go wrong, and it did.
Alan Moore was becoming unhappy with how he, and other people, were being treated at Marvel UK. He had been having a dispute with their accounting department about unpaid invoices, he didn’t like how his friend Steve Moore had been treated by them, and he was particularly unhappy with the way that he felt they had dealt with Bernie Jaye, who had been the editor of Daredevils, where Moore had not only been working on Captain Britain, but had also been producing a number of articles, fanzine reviews, and other bits and pieces for her at little or no extra cost. After she left he dropped all of the extra work he was doing for Marvel, finished out his run on Captain Britain, and didn’t work for them again. (I should point out that Bernie Jaye left Marvel UK of her own volition, to pursue work elsewhere, and was not fired, as is sometimes alleged.)
Moore also refused permission for Marvel in the US to reprint his Captain Britain work over there, a decision that would have very long-reaching consequences: Moore refusing permission for his Captain Britain work to be published in the US obviously meant that he was also stopping Alan Davis from being able to see his Captain Britain work published there, meaning Davis had no exposure in the American market. Moore, on the other hand, had started writing Saga of the Swamp Thing for DC Comics, beginning with #20, cover-dated January 1984, which was the beginning of his rapid climb to where he is today.
There were also problems brewing at Warrior. In the beginning, Moore had been very happy with the set-up there. In an interview with Eddie Stachelski in Fantasy Express #5 in January 1983, he says,
Working for Quality Comics is great! It’s cartoon heaven. The basic deal is that all of us creators work for about half of the going rate up front, but hopefully more than make up for that by way of the many side benefits we receive. For instance, once Warrior has passed the sales breakeven point the profits are split down the middle between Quality Communications and the creative people involved. So if it sells well, we stand to make about as much again as the sum we’ve already been paid as a flat rate. Maybe more. On top of that, we get a very healthy whack of the copyright in so far as it relates to reprint rights and merchandising deals. I’ll give you an example to show you what I mean.
Me and Dave Lloyd own V for Vendetta between us. It’s our character and in the unlikely event of us parting company with Quality Communications, V goes with us. We get paid the basic flat rate for it, and a few months later we hopefully receive our bonus, depending upon sales. When we’ve done about ten or twelve episodes we’ve got enough material to fill an album… A number of album publishers have already expressed an interest in syndicating some of the stuff in Warrior, so say they bring out a Vendetta album in France or Spain or whatever, me and Dave get about 60 or 70% of the royalty money and the rest goes to Quality Communications for setting up the deal in the first place. If V becomes really popular and they decide to make a film out of the character, then the same thing applies. Likewise posters, badges, T-shirts and stuff like that. If Palitoy decide to market a V for Vendetta Junior Home Terrorist outfit then it’s me and Dave who stand to reap the lion’s share. This is great. This is how it should be. The end result is that the creators are spurred on to do the best stuff possible because it’s them that stand to gain from its success.
I know that DC and Marvel in the States are starting to make some inroads into this sort of area, but it’s going to be a long time before they can approach the sort of deal we’ve got at Warrior. It’s the sort of deal that could only be instigated by a small independent company. Big corporations don’t really have a chance of matching it, if only because of the restrictions inherent in their corporate structure.
Quite apart from all this, the major benefit of working for Warrior is that we’re all allowed to do more or less what the hell we like. Dez knows we’re all competent professionals and tends to trust in our judgement on aesthetic matters. From the response we’ve had I don’t think we’ve let him down so far. If anything I think Warrior has benefited immensely from the diversity and outlandishness of much of its content. It sets us apart and makes us different. It enables us to make artistic progressions of a sort that the major companies are too nervous to even contemplate. And on top of that we’re all great buddies, we enjoy working together, we enjoy getting drunk together, and by and large it’s a shit hot way to round out one’s third decade upon the planet Earth.
Later on, however, Moore would have less flattering things to say about Quality Communications, and about Dez Skinn. At the beginning of their relationship, Skinn had been the superstar comics editor, fresh from his revamp of Marvel UK, and had been a major player in the UK comics scene for quite a number of years. Alan Moore, on the other hand, had only appeared on the scene with his short stories in Doctor Who Weekly and 2000 AD in 1980, two years prior to Warrior, and hadn’t as yet produced any major piece of work, so wasn’t at all well-known at the time. This was all to change, however, as Moore became the rising star of British comics, particularly for his work in Warrior, and what was to have been Skinn’s big project began to be seen as Moore’s own personal showcase. Inevitably, I suppose, tensions arose between them. In March 1982 Moore and Skinn were a year on either side of thirty years old. Both of them were ambitious, driven, and passionate about their work. They were also both stubborn young men who could not possibly have imagined that their youthful hotheadedness from half a lifetime ago would still be being aired thirty years after the event. What is obvious is that the two of them clashed, and that this was having a detrimental effect on Moore’s work for Warrior.
Nor was this the only problem besetting Warrior. In May 1984, between issue #18 and issue #19, Quality Communications published Marvelman Special #1, whose cover material read, Back in Their Own Title – After 20 Years – The Mightiest Family in the Universe! The contents consisted of four old Marvelman stories, reprinted from the L Miller & Son issues, and all attributed to Mick Anglo as writer, and to either Don Lawrence or Roy Parker as artists, with a small copyright declaration beside each story saying © Mick Anglo. Specifically, there was Marvelman Family and the Invaders from the Future and Marvelman and the Foam Fanatic, both drawn by Lawrence; and Marvelman and the Dreams and Young Marvelman and the Moon of Doom, with art by Parker. Marvelman Family and the Invaders From the Future had been previously published in Marvelman Family #1 in October 1956, but I’ve been unable to chase down the original publication information for the rest of the pieces. [EDIT: I’ve since been told where they originally appeared – see this comment, below] As well as the four Marvelman stories, there was a Big Ben story called Big Ben Versus King Arthur, which is attributed to Edgar Henry as writer – actually Steve Moore under another pseudonym – and Ian Gibson as artist. This piece had originally been produced in 1977 for Skinn’s abortive British Super-Heroes magazine, created for Thorpe & Porter’s Williams publishing division, which never saw the light of day. The whole magazine is wrapped up with four pages of framing device, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Alan Davis, tying it into the strip’s current continuity.
When Skinn had originally published Warrior, he had been very careful to distance Marvelman from the already existing Marvel Comics, not wanting to run afoul of their proprietorial interest in all comics with the word Marvel in them. However, by the time he got around to publishing Marvelman Special #1 in 1984, he had decided that he was safe from any interference from that quarter. After all, he had been publishing Marvelman in Warrior for over two years at that point, and there was also the fact that Marvelman himself predated the existence of Marvel Comics by a good seven years. Not only that, but both Warrior the magazine and Marvelman the strip had been mentioned and recommended a few times in various Marvel UK publications, both in letters’ pages and by the editorial staff. From issue #2 Warrior had, just to be safe, run a line of text along the side of the first page of every Marvelman strip that said,
Marvelman is based on, and a continuation of, the 1954 L Miller and Son Ltd copyright character and is in no way associated with Marvel Comics Ltd.
As well as this notice there was also a copyright declaration attached to each strip, originally reading © Alan Moore / Garry Leach / Quality Communications, 1982, and changing as it went along, to incorporate the changes in creative personnel, and the attendant changes in the shareholdings. Also, from issue #3, both the name Marvelman and a small image of the character were regularly featured on the cover in a sidebar column, and the actual cover itself was given over to illustrations of Marvelman on a few occasions. It seemed, by 1984, as if Marvel UK weren’t concerned about Marvelman after all, but it would turn out that this supposition could not have been more wrong. But before that, there were even more problems in store for Warrior.
Since its first issue in 1982, Warrior had received enormous critical acclaim. The publication and its creators virtually swept the boards at the Eagle Awards in 1983, taking or sharing eight of the ten awards in the British section. These were for Favourite Writer, Favourite Comic, Favourite Comic Character, Favourite Villain, Favourite Supporting Character, Favourite Single or Continued Story, Favourite New Comic, and Favourite Comic Cover. Four of these were directly related to Marvelman (Favourite Comic Character, Favourite Villain, Favourite Single or Continued Story, and Favourite Comic Cover for Warrior #7), and one other shared, as Alan Moore won the award for Favourite Writer, which would have been not only for his work on Marvelman and V for Vendetta, but also for work with Marvel UK and 2000 AD, for whom he was still writing at the time. Despite all this acclaim, Warrior never really sold as well as it should have. A look through the letters pages shows that there always seemed to be some problems with distribution and availability. As the sole publication of a new publisher, it would have been difficult for Warrior to come to the attention of either the newsagents who would have been selling it on the one hand, or potential readers on the other. Certainly it won awards, but this didn’t necessarily mean an awful lot more awareness amongst the general public.
Alan Moore once remarked that ‘the comic industry awards are all voted for by thirty people in anoraks with dreadful social lives’, and this may not have been too wide of the mark, with the Eagles being voted on by between 500 and 600 people in 1983. Whereas British comics fandom was wild about Warrior, Marvelman, and Alan Moore, this didn’t necessarily mean that anyone outside a very small group of British comics fans had any idea who or what they were. Even copies that did make it to newsagents’ shops didn’t necessarily sell and, as these were being offered to them on a sale-or-return basis, large quantities of the magazine were returned to Quality Communications unsold. Skinn found that, almost from the beginning, he had to subsidise the magazine from the profits of his comic shop – Quality Comics in New Cross, near Greenwich in London – in the hope that sales would pick up.
As well as this, creative and other problems were starting to appear. The antipathy between Alan Moore and Dez Skinn was escalating. Skinn had wanted Moore to incorporate the Big Ben character into the Marvelman story, and Moore had responded by turning him into a sort of sub-human, a failed reject from the same technology that had produced Marvelman. It all finally reached a head over suggested revisions to one of Moore’s scripts, brought about by the age-old conflict between commerce and art. In a telephone interview with Moore about Marvelman he told me:
The problems arose, I remember… It was something really stupid. It was probably one of the later ones, and I’d got a scene, probably taking place mostly inside the mind of Johnny Bates, where I had – there was somebody had called him a queer, a virgin, I think it was probably his adult evil self – he called him a queer, a virgin, and there was some other vaguely controversial, or apparently controversial piece of dialogue, and I remember Dez Skinn phoning me up and saying that he didn’t like these things and he wanted them changed. And I said that I didn’t want them changed because I thought that they were natural, they were a part of the characterisation, and also I didn’t see what the purpose of that was. Warrior was aimed at a fairly intelligent readership, we hadn’t had any complaints, and I tended to think that this was a hangover from Dez Skinn’s days at Marvel, and he mentioned lots of things – why offend even one reader? – to which I responded, because the alternative is to gear your entire product to the most squeamish and prudish member of the audience. I said that I’m not happy going along with that.
Eventually, the argument got down to, well, if I’d just change one of them, and it didn’t matter which one it was. At which point I said, so, basically, they’re all alright to go in, but you want me to change one of them? And Dez Skinn had said, yes, and that it was a matter of him not losing face, at which point I said, no, that’s an even more ridiculous reason for changing what – I mean, I take all of my stories quite seriously. I put things in them for a reason. And because Dez had manufactured this situation unnecessarily, where he was asking me to make changes, and then had said, well, if I could just change one, so that he didn’t lose face, at this point I said no, I was not prepared to change any of them. And that was how it went down.
Probably the breaking point came in a meeting in the New Cross offices. We were arguing over some other issue, at which point I had reminded Dez that he had rung me up about a week or two before and had asked me to change a piece of the story, it didn’t matter which part, simply because he didn’t want to lose face. At which point he said, ‘That never happened, Alan.’ This was calling me a liar about something we both knew was true in front of, I suppose, Garry Leach and Steve Moore. At this point I was halfway across the office, and Steve Moore and Garry Leach were saying, ‘Leave him, Alan, he’s not worth it,’ and at that point I ceased my work for Warrior. It was just that I couldn’t have somebody lying about me and my honesty.
The three instances were all from Warrior #7, and involved Kid Marvelman calling his alter ego Johnny Bates a ‘snotty little virgin’, a hospitalised terrorist calling Evelyn Cream ‘chocolate’, and Liz Moran telling Mike Moran ‘I’ve missed my last two periods’.
I asked Dez Skinn about this, as well, and he said,
I never fell out with him, I can’t speak for Alan. I think things got tarnished when I suggested we edit out such words as ‘chocolate’ (about Evelyn Cream), ‘virgin’ (in the context of a 12-year old boy) and ‘period’ (about Liz missing hers) – all from the same Marvelman script (#7, I’ve just checked specifics). We’d lost WH Smiths only a few weeks earlier because somebody’s mum had complained about the ‘adult nature’ of the Zirk strip in #3. This was a few months after #3 went on sale, about when I was checking fresh scripts for #7 (we had to work two extra months ahead, printing in Finland). I couldn’t afford a trade backlash against us, I’d no outside financier and wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and my shop funded the magazine.
But I didn’t want to go ahead and change things without consulting creators. That wasn’t the way we did things, we weren’t IPC, DC Thomson or Marvel UK. The whole approach was one of discussion, over everything. Hence the idea of me wanting changes reared its head at our next monthly meeting. But before I could raise my concern about how it would affect the magazine’s viability – thus everybody’s income – if there were any more complaints, Alan suddenly announced, ‘I don’t believe in editors!’
This was a huge shock and I guess a potential stand-off. We’d always been very close in the past with him phoning me at great length at all hours (often getting me out of bed – I wasn’t a family man so I wasn’t an early riser!) I felt like replying, ‘So go find a magazine that doesn’t have an editor or do your own!’ but amazingly chose to be discreet and said nothing. I guess I lost a lot of credibility with everybody there by backing down. But it was a very difficult position Alan put me in.
Anyway, my non-assertive silence obviously paid off, Alan kept on contributing scripts right up to the final issue, so even if I did lose face, there were more important things… like proving to the world a new approach (first rights, returning artwork, etc) could be seen to be working. So things continued relatively smoothly. Either way, he still carried on contributing to the magazine. Which to my mind is what it’s all about, professionalism and the end product. Personalities can get in the way with anything creative (one writer told me it was ‘unfair’ that Alan Moore was getting the lion’s share of the magazine, obviously oblivious to quality being the determining factor). But as long as the magazine comes out, that’s the main thing. Everything else is tittle-tattle which we should strive to rise above.
Obviously the altercation with Dez Skinn happened quite a bit later than Alan Moore remembered. None the less, things were starting to unravel at Warrior, and worse was to come.
To Be Continued…
Pádraig Ó Méalóid is a middle-aged Irishman. He has been fascinated with the story of Marvelman for a very long time, and has written a book about it, which is currently looking for a publisher.