Welcome to the three hundredth and forty-first in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, learn the amazing story of how Alan Moore decided to let Marvel reprint his Captain Britain stories. Plus, discover how long Steve Gerber was willing to wait to deliver on a joke!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and forty.
COMIC LEGEND: Alan Moore’s decision to let Marvel reprint his Captain Britain stories came about due to an interesting meeting at a British pub.
Awhile back, I cited the great British comic book reporter and editor Phil Hall on the story of Alan Moore and how his displeasure with Marvel Comics reprinting his work for Marvel UK changed the path Chris Claremont was taking on Uncanny X-Men due to a hesitance to use characters from Moore’s Marvel UK stories (you can read it here).
At the end of that piece, I noted:
Eventually, Marvel and Alan Moore worked out a deal (this led to the X-Men Archives reprints of Moore’s Captain Britan work) so they can now freely use the Moore characters.
Phil later wrote in to me with a wonderful story giving further detail into an encounter he had with Alan Moore that LED to Moore working out a deal with Marvel allowing them to reprint his Captain Britain stories in the mid-1990s…
I was working for Dez Skinn at Comics International at the time and Alan Moore and Skinn by this time had sort of become the arch nemesis of each other; although to be fair Alan was far more indignant about Skinn than the other way around. I was also friends with Marvel’s then head of communications, Lou Bank, and while at dinner one evening, Lou informed me that Marvel couldn’t reprint the Moore/Davis CB stuff because of Alan’s refusal to allow the reprints. Now Lou made a telling comment at the time which was something along the lines of, “I’m sure Alan (Davis) doesn’t need the money, but I’m pretty sure that Dave Thorpe has never worked in comics since and that guy could probably do with a few thousand bucks!”
A couple of months later, I’m in a pub called The County Tavern in Northampton, which just happened to be my local and also the closest pub to Alan’s home. He came in with a mutual friend – a guy called Tom Perkins; a violinist as opposed to the guy of the same name who worked in comics and I wandered over to say ‘hi’. I knew Alan, but the only previous time we’d had any meaningful conversation, I’d upset him by saying I thought his Swamp Thing had pissed on the Wein/Wrightson creation and has he wanted to do some existential bullshit, he should have done it with something else (this had been at an exhibition of photographer Mitch Jenkins – the guy now co-producing films with Alan under the Orphans of the Storm logo – back in 1986 or 87). Anyhow, I digress; the three of us are all talking, Alan finds out I’m working for Skinn; I have to make it clear to him that i think my employer is as much of a c*nt as Alan claims he is and once this is sorted, we settle down to an evening of civilised discussion until the subject turns to Captain Britain. Now, as you might have garnered, I’m not exactly a sycophant; working in comics was just that work and while I was a fan of comics, especially some of the stuff Moore had done, In was not overawed by people who, like me, take shits.
I mentioned to Alan exactly what Lou Bank said about Dave Thorpe and how his obstinacy was depriving thousands of fans from seeing something great just because he was pissed off with a previous administration at Marvel. Quite remarkably, Alan acknowledged this and the following week, in my column for CI called Movers & Shakers, I recounted the above in a toned down and abridged version and by the end of the month Marvel was in dialogue with Moore over the reprint edition, which I believe came out about 6 months later.
An interesting open question that Phil doesn’t (and I don’t) have an answer to is – did Dave Thorpe ever get the royalties? Anyone happen to know?
Thanks, Phil, for an awesome tale!
COMIC LEGEND: Over two decades after making a one-off joke in an issue of Howard the Duck, Steve Gerber made good on the joke.
All this month, we’re doing The Greatest Stories Ever Told, the top stories from the top creators in the comics business (as well as the top characters). One of the creators featured was Steve Gerber, and the top story on his list (which you can read here) was 1977’s Howard the Duck #16, a famous issue where Gerber, rather than have the issue be a reprint, decided to devote to essays about his work on Howard the Duck.
One of the jokes in the comic was to have an “obligatory fight scene,” where a showgirl and an ostrich get into an altercation.
Later, in an inspired bit of meta-commentary, Gerber writes a fan letter to himself about the issue that he’s currently writing!!!
Note his reference to the showgirl…
Well, years later, Neil Gaiman noted on an internet comic forum that he would love to see the story, as well. Gerber, who was thinking of pitches for Vertigo at the time, took him up on the suggestion and amazingly enough, over twenty years after the initial joke, the showgirl and the ostrich got their own series!!!
They were the stars of Gerber’s 1998 Vertigo mini-series Nevada, with art by Phil Winslade…
Talk about devotion to a bit!! And one more thing the comic book world owes Neil Gaiman! Thanks to my pal Richard for reminding me about the Gaiman aspect (which I had totally forgotten about).
COMIC LEGEND: What If…? #4 was decided after the fact that it was not an alternate reality.
STATUS: I’m Going With False
What If…? was a Marvel series that told alternate reality stories, like, for instance, what if Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four back in Amazing Spider-Man #1 when he tried to get a job with them?
However, Marvel did not exactly hold true to this pattern, and one notable example was very early on.
Issue #4 was titled “What If… the Invaders had stayed together after World War II?” It was written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Frank Robbins…
It was not, though, a traditional What If…? Instead, this was an example by Roy Thomas to do a continuity fix for his Invaders series, as he needed the freedom to continue to use Captain America in the Invaders after the end of World War II.
Commenter buttler suggests that it was only after the fact that Thomas decided to put the comic into the official Marvel continuity, but I believe that the comic is quite clear that this is just the Watcher telling us what happened during Marvel’s version of World War II.
Note that he never mentions a divergent timeline. It is just the Watcher telling us what happened after Cap’s “death”…
Thus, from Thomas’ handling of the issue (note that he even worked in a reference to the issue of Avengers where the Avengers traveled back in time to see Bucky and Cap take off on the rocket – hence the mysterious shield shown above – that is a pretty good indication that Thomas felt that the story took place in Marvel’s “main” continuity) as well as how he never treated the story as anything BUT part of Marvel’s main continuity, and I think it is safe to say that this was always intended to be part of Marvel’s main continuity, and one of Thomas’ finest retcons.
Thanks to buttler for inspiring me to do this one!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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See you all next week!