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!