Thursday, 16 January 2014

Alan Moore versus The Small Press.

Good day Chaps,

This is post is going to very different from our usual posts. Normally we let you know what we're up to, whats coming out and where we are going to be. But we're going to try something we wouldn't normally do, at least via our professional blog, and that's voice our opinions - a pain we would normally subject you to via social media feeds. Today however, we stumbled across something of interest to us here at the WCP: Alan Moore's "final" interview.

If you have the time you can read it here. It's typically Moorean, a long-winded yet fantastically constructed piece in defense of his short films and more visually controversial characters. Eventually it ends up as an attack on journalist Laura Sneddon and comics creator Grant Morrison. We don't really want to get into that. There are a lot of race politics, complexities and interpretation involved, hence we want to shy away from those for sake of brevity and fear of the inevitable misunderstanding and insanity that lives on the internet. Likewise we're avoiding the latter (largely) on the grounds that it appears to be a personal bugbear for Moore. We don't even want to address Moore's ongoing claim that characters created for children (only part true), decades ago (except for the new ones) are somehow an unhealthy obsession for so-called grown ups in modern days (because obviously no creators have expanded on the themes or ideas for a medium that has grown up with its audience).
No, as small press creators we want to address a brief passage that  Moore has more or less said before in other words, which is essentially that all comics now suck and almost everyone in them suck.
"While he [Morrison} is clearly not the only reason why I have come to feel actual revulsion for the greater part of today’s comic world, he has probably done more than any other single individual to foul its atmosphere and make it unbreathable with his ongoing reeking incontinence – and that, believe me, is in a field where he has enjoyed a great deal of vigorous competition. There are perhaps a dozen or so people in the industry that I respect immensely and with whom I am delighted to both work and remain in contact, but the rest of it is a comic world that I don’t wish to take any part in; a world of fleeting minor celebrities who have managed to make this magnificent medium into a source of lucrative commercial product that is socially acceptable to the point of being neutered, or else into style accessories by which otherwise socially cautious and conventional people and publishers perhaps hope to foster an air of edgy modernity."

There are various other instances of Moore saying such things. Creators lack originality, the modern comics world is no different from the world of mobsters and porn merchants that started it, so on and so forth. To be sure the comics industry hasn't kept quiet about this. One of our favourite writers Jason Aaron (Scalped) literally said that Moore should go fuck himself.

But here in the small press world we don't get much media coverage other than when one of us "breaks through" so we don't really get to have our say. We wouldn't presume to speak for everyone but there is something we would like to say in defense of the medium at our level.
Let me say off the bat that we are huge Moore fans, our own book has been described as feeling like The League (somewhat of a mixed complement) and the Gent was even birthed as drunken parody of Rorschach. Moore is a fantastic writer and helped to shape a medium we have grown up in. He is like The Beatles of comics - like him or not his work is hugely influential and he frequently say statements as inflammatory as "bigger than Jesus".

But here's the thing: he is also a man out of time. His rise to fame in comics occurred in a much different world than our own. Not just in terms of the economy, or politics, or any of those social structures. We mean purely in the medium of comics. I choose "medium" over "world" as to differentiate the "form" over the "culture/society".  Moore's claims that comics are now socially neutered is silly and uniformed.

To briefly frame this arguement in terms of Moore's own history, he came to true fame in the Modern Age of comics. His own Watchmen and The Dark Knight by the equally brilliant but outdated Frank Millar marked the spiritual coming about of a era of challenging comics, outside the standard action fantasy adventure of the mainstream. They were comics that audience were hungry for and they revolutionised our medium. 

With this in mind, Moore still attacks the comic industry saying there's nothing of quality nor art nor medium-expanding substance. I don't want to defend the mainstream too much, they have their own defendants. I don't even want to defend the independents (the artistry of Craig Thompson or Canales and Guarnido is self evident). I want to defend us here in the Small Press. We personally have been guilty, as I'm sure you have, of a sort of self-deprecating modesty. We aren't comic creators, we just make comics sometimes. We're not in the industry, we just pour time, money and effort into a vibrant market. 
It’s Not About The Money
By Raphael Salimena
This image is from the internet. If it's yours, please let us know.
But we are. We might not make a hell of a lot of money but between us all we create a hell of a lot of comics. We create a lot of comics we're proud of, a lot of comics that impress one another, a lot of comics that force us to want to better and make better creations. We might be the lowest rung of the ladder, but we're still part of the industry. The world Moore grew up in had no zines, a mentally un-challenging mainstream and far fewer people striving for their creations to be seen. At the risk of glorifying our roles or promoting a sickening and un-British sense of pride, we (and here I mean us all) are the future of comics... and Alan Moore is wrong about us. We live in a world where mainstream comics include the likes of Moore's work and many more that have just as much, if not more, artistic value. We have hundred of outputs for creators that a substantially more impressive that the old zines as well as more zines than ever and thousands of would-be creators. Here in the small press we don't get paid a fantastic amount of money, or any at all in most cases. We'd be lying if we said we wouldn't like our comics to be noticed by someone who gain us a little respect and pay us for making comics, but above all don't we just want to make comics? Not only that, don't we want to make good comics? Don't we see one another's work and recognise those that are exceptional and rave to our friends about them? Is every new issue an excuse to reassess our techniques, our forms and learn our craft? Don't we have messages and causes we want to champion? I know that's the way it is here at the Water Closet.  We didn't accidentally make a comic that (hopefully) felt like a silver age comic or penny dreadful. We did that deliberately. We didn't accidentally pick that art style and review it over each issue and story. We purposely are trying to get better. We read, we've assimilated, we've innovated, we've added, we've taken away. We've learned.  We want to make better art.

So what does this mad disparate rant mean? It means that we, the Small Press, are part of the comics industry and that when Moore attacks it, he attacks us. He attacks from a position of disinterest in our willingness to learn and get better. He attacks us with a broad sweeping statement of a man who is detached from the current comics climate here in Britain and it's foolish.  It's not fair of Moore to decree that there are only a dozen or so people in the industry of any real value. We're not saying that with the conceited whine, "well he doesn't know us so how can he say that? If he did he would change his mind". We're saying it to point out Moore's own conceit, where if there aren't people he knows in the industry that he likes - in the whole goddamn world of comics - then they aren't worth knowing. That's such a rotten attitude to have, not to mention incredibly miopic. He outright rejects the existence, let alone the validity, of an entire thriving scene within the industry he's claiming omniscience of.

In an attempt to abandon a Big Bad industry he feels has wronged him and has since lost its way, Moore is inadvertently telling the Little Guys who look up to him that they're no good. That they shouldn't try because it's all garbage anyway and nobody can make it better.  Well, we're trying to.  We know there's good stuff out there, you just need to look in the right places.  It may be oversimplistic to say that he's throwing away the baby with the bathwater, but in turning his back on them, Alan Moore has turned his back on us.

So there you have it. Another voice hidden in the roar surrounding Moore. I still love the crazy ol' wizard and this post is the equivalent of turning around to Grandad and telling him that he's not allowed to say that word anymore... only Grandad is too old to care how he sounds and has stopped talking to you anyway. But that still doesn't mean we shouldn't say something.

Fully aware of the futility of opinions on the internet and knowing full well that there will be no hope of a reply I think a message should be sent to Moore. "Firstly, we in the small press don't appreciate what you're saying, and secondly (much like this post) complaining doesn't change a thing". Do something about it. If turning his back on comics is similar to Russell Brand's stance on voting, admirable in its ideology but actively impractical. If Moore wants to see a change in the industry he claims has turned its back on him, he is quite right to turn his back to them... but then he should turn to the future. 

Rather than bitch out everyone involved in comics, why not shine a light on the small press and the truly independent creators to help leave the industry better than he found it.  Moore believes in magic words but perhaps he is unaware of the magic his own name carries. What if, imagine for a second, Moore isn't the martyr he claims to be.  Hell even Jerry Siegal eventually came back to comics and forgave some of his opponents and praised the direction creators took with his characters. Siegal was screwed out of Superman for years and came back; Moore lost Watchmen. I'm not saying he shouldn't be angry, but he's certainly not alone, and everything is relative right? 

Anyway, back to the point. Imagine if rather than be the martyr, Moore was the mentor. What if Moore used his influence and experience to help actively shape a new generation of creators rather than condemn them to a perceived villainy.  To hold them up and say "Look, these people - the ones doing it for fun, to grow the medium and not their wallets - they're still doing it right. They're doing it better." Rather than strike off the comic world, why not take an interest in the comic world of tomorrow.

Perhaps there is a naivety to these words. A lack of knowledge of Moore's interaction with new creators, an entitled demand for our real life heroes to remain heroic and continue to do more for us than he already has, or a simple the selfishness on our behalf that won't let a bitter old man be a just that . We accept that, as we accept that we'll likely received accusation of self interest, if indeed we receive any feedback at all. But that doesn't mean we can't at least be hopeful. 

Your normal service will now resume.

England Prevails.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Anthology Update & Thought Bubble 2013

Welcome to 2014 everybody!

Long time no see.  It's been a whirlwind over at Water Closet headquarters!  Last time we saw you we had just gone to print with our mighty anthology and were about to head off to Thought Bubble.  We got the chance to meet some of our fine contributors while we were there and give them some copies of the book, still warm from the printing machine. They were only delivered (by hand!) to us that morning by the omnipotent Stuart Gould, and nothing compares to that feeling when we first opened the first box and laid eyes on the beauts.  It was a treat to share that with many of you, and get such positive feedback from passers by.

Ladies and gentlemen anthology, irregulars, comic

Sitting directly to our left was Adam & Hillary Steel, the fine folks from Darkmook Paper Miniatures.  Adam was kind enough to do a Gentrified version of his insanely fun tabletop combat game for the back of the book (pictured below sans Were-Hyenas, of which there are 4).  For those of you awaiting the board on which to play, hold on to your butts because it will soon be available right here for free download.  You can print it out, cut out your paper figurines and have a ball. 

Get out of my kitchen!

Weren't at Thought Bubble, you say? Where can you get your hands on a copy of The Irregulars, you ask?  Well, despite selling well at the convention, we still had too many books to be able to transport them back to Bristol, so at the moment our stock is in the capable hands of the Travelling Man comic shop in Leeds.  From there they will be distributed to the other Travelling Man shops (Manchester, Newcastle, York) and back down to us.  Once that happens we will finally be able to ship out copies to all the very patient individuals who lent us their talents for the book, and to those interested in buying online.

So watch this space and we'll let you know when we have our books back and ready to go!  In the meantime, go read some comics and them make some comcis.  I leave you with a comission I did of a battle damaged Gent...

Gentleman, injured, Ladies and Gentlemen, fight, battle damage