Boy From The Boroughs
Alan Moore interviewed by Pádraig Ó Méalóid.
“All of my tantrums, and the brutality and humiliation, and me sitting on top of a filing cabinet like Stan Lee, and dropping people’s cheques on the floor, so they had to grovel to me before they can pick them up. Nah, I don’t think… I’m very pleased with the way I’ve comported myself as Dodgem Logic’s publisher.”
Alan Moore: Hello?
Pádraig Ó Méalóid: Hello Alan!
AM: Hello, Pádraig. How’re you doing, mate?
PÓM: How’re you doing?
AM: Not too bad, man, not too bad at all.
PÓM: OK, good. I’m your date for this evening.
AM: I realise that. I’ve got me cup of tea made, and I’m all prepared for you.
PÓM: Grand, I’ve a cup of coffee here meself, so off we go. OK, I’ve a bunch of things here. Joe tells me I’ve an hour, so I’m going to try and flog through a bunch of stuff here.
PÓM: Right, the first thing I wanted to ask you, actually, before I get into your own work is, doing research on the book, and here and there, one thing I came across and I wanted to ask you about was Superfolks. You know, it one of these kind of – in the same way there’s this ongoing rumour that Jerry Siegel read Gladiator and based Superman on it, there’s this – Grant Morrison was at one stage intimating that you’d read Superfolks and based your entire output on it.
AM: Well, I have read Superfolks. I know that Grant Morrison, I believe, back when he was trying to make a name for himself by writing nasty things about me, I know he had intimated that. But it was by no means the only influence, or even a major influence upon me output. Were there any specific things? Was it just a general accusation, or were there any specific things?
PÓM: He did – there was an article in Speakeasy I think back in 1990? Something like that? And I think he’d just read it, and he goes, ‘Oh, that’s this, and that’s that, and you said this,’ and he was kind of picking out pieces that suited his case, shall we say? I mean, when you read Superfolks, what sort of influence would it have had on you, let us say?
AM: I can’t even remember when I read it. It would probably have been before I wrote Marvelman, and it would have had the same kind of influence upon me as the much earlier – probably a bit early for Grant Morrison to have spotted it – Brian Patten‘s poem, ‘Where Are You Now, Batman?’, which was in the 1960s Penguin Mersey Poets collection [sic, The Mersey Sound], and that, which had an elegiac tone to it, which was talking about these former heroes in straitened circumstances, looking back to better days in the past, that had an influence. I’d still say that Harvey Kurtzman‘s Superduperman probably had the preliminary influence, but I do remember Superfolks and finding some bits of it in that same sort of vein. I also remember reading Joseph Torchia‘s The Kryptonite Kid around that time. I found that quite moving. I can’t remember whether… I did read it, certainly, but as I say, I think Grant Morrison, by his own admission, said in an interview that, back at that stage of his career, that was his way of making himself famous, by actually attacking a more famous writer, who incidentally had got him his job at Vertigo. So, I can’t remember, to tell the truth, Pádraig.
PÓM: That’s OK. It’s just one of these things that came up, and I wanted to ask you because I couldn’t find any reference to anyone actually asking you?
AM: Like I say, it probably was one of a number of influences that may have had some influence upon the elegiac quality of Marvelman.
PÓM: I think it was just kind of… I was discussing this with Chris Roberson, and he mentioned Steam Engine Time. You know the notion of Steam Engine Time, it’s just the right time for something to happen, and I think that was what it was. It was in the air.
AM: Yeah. I can’t remember any specific allegations, or any specific things that I might have been influenced by, other than that general sort of post-modern kind of elegiac feel.
PÓM: Cool. OK, the next thing I wanted to ask you about is Dodgem Logic, and how that’s going along.
AM: What’s happening with Dodgem Logic at the moment is that with issue eight, which will be the next one to come out – a little bit later than normal, we’re sending it to print the middle of next month – issue eight will be the last issue for a while. This is because Dodgem Logic has been entirely funded with my money, and we have not yet managed to break even. This is for a number of reasons, partly because we did not want to have any paid advertising in Dodgem Logic. We also wanted to have good quality production values, which would enable us to have things like Melinda‘s artwork, or Mitch Jenkins‘ photography, and actually show them in the way that they deserve to be shown, which I’m not sorry about at all. We were very, very close to reaching that break-even point. Obviously, very close is not close at all, in some senses. On the other hand, if our distribution problems could have been sorted out, or if a couple of other things – but we were getting to the point where we would have been breaking even, and the magazine could have continued. What’s happened instead is that we’ve reached the point where I pretty much had to write off the money, but I was prepared to do that, because it was important to me to do Dodgem Logic in the way that I saw it, as the vehicle that I saw it being. I didn’t want to compromise on it.
What we’re doing now is, after issue eight has come out – which is looking like a very lovely issue, it has to be said. We’ve got a ten-page piece of new writing from Michael Moorcock, ‘A Child’s Christmas in the Blitz’, which we’ll be running, and lots of other lovely stuff as well. What we’re doing after that is we will be putting original content up on the website, which we’re redesigning to make it more user-friendly, ’cause it was very pretty before, but not necessarily easy for people to use. It was a bit fussy and complicated, so on a lot of people’s computers there was a lot of delay time, and we’re trying to get around all those things, and we’re also talking with people at successful magazines, things like New Humanist, who are discussing ways that it is possible to make the magazine pay for itself, using things like presubscription, by changing the format, coming up with some sort of compromise whereby, say, there were a number of high quality colour pages, so that we could still accommodate the visuals that we wanted to, but where pages that didn’t so much benefit from the high production values, where it was just articles, or pieces, we could print them – where the values are slightly more affordable. So, I don’t know whether we’re going to be able to manage this, obviously, but we hope we can, because Dodgem Logic, I’m really proud of it.
I’m really proud of those eight issues. They didn’t compromise, they did exactly what the magazine set out to do, and I think that they set a wonderful example, and the response that we got was getting better by the issue. People were saying that there seemed to be a coherent agenda evolving from between the varied and various contributors to Dodgem Logic. And, yes, I think that was happening, and I also think that the times that we’re entering now are the perfect times, they’re times when we need a magazine like Dodgem Logic, or some kind of underground equivalent that can… I mean, we’re going through what the Chinese would have called Interesting Times, you know. There are power struggles and explosions going on all over the world, and I’ve no reason to believe that our country is going to be immune to it, so, yes, I think that Dodgem Logic, it would be nice if we could find some way to keep it going, because I think it was fulfilling a useful purpose. And also, in the eighteen months or so that the magazine’s first volume existed, we were able to do quite a lot of cool stuff for Spring Boroughs, including the parcel delivery that we made last Christmas, where we are incredibly proud of the fact that Ann Timson was one of the recipients of our Dodgem Logic food hampers.
PÓM: Who was that?
AM: Ann Timson, you might have seen her on a piece of footage which has been on all of the national television networks, and I believe she was interviewed for American television on CNN over it. This was a jewellery robbery in Northampton…
PÓM: Yes! Yes, of course!
AM: It was right at the south-west corner of the Boroughs, the top of Gold Street, and Ann Timson was the woman who ran out of nowhere like some sort of comic book avenger and set about five smash and grab robbers, who were on scooters, and who had sledgehammers. And she just laid about them with her handbag, and all of them tried to flee. One of them fell off of his bicycle, at which point Ann went over and started laying into him with her handbag again. I’d like to think that, just by giving Ann a bit of sustenance over the Christmas period, that we sort of contributed to her extraordinary act of valour. That’s the kind of people that we’re trying to take care of, and I think that Ann’s extraordinary feat is a wonderful illustration of why those people should be valued and look after. And I’m not just talking about Northampton, I’m talking about everywhere, all over the country. Everywhere where you’ve got an area like the Boroughs – and we’ve all got one – where people have been written off, where they’re seen as pikeys, as the underclass. So, it’d be nice if we could get Dodgem Logic back up and running again, in whatever form. We’ll keep you posted, obviously, and we’ll be making all of this transparent and plain, both in the last issue and on the ongoing website.
PÓM: I was going to ask you something else about Dodgem Logic: I know yourself you’re famously antipathetic to deadlines, but you must have had to be imposing them for Dodgem Logic. How did you feel about that?
AM: Well, I had personally been doing probably more pages in each issue than any other contributor, after having written ‘Great Hipsters’ and the editorial page, and my page in the ‘Notes from NoHo’ section, and whatever length of article I had written.
PÓM: Were you writing the ‘Martin Marprelate’ pieces?
AM: No, that was somebody else, a friend of mine from Northampton, who had to remain pseudonymous for job reasons. A wonderful writer, who had never tried to write like that before. Anyway, so, yeah, I’m writing most of the stuff. As far as imposing deadlines on other people, well, that’s why I hired Joe Brown and Queen Calluz, so that I can retain my image of being an easygoing liberal guy, and we can actually get the magazine out. I mean, it’s not like, if people miss a deadline, it’s not like we fire them, you know? We fit in something else. We are suggesting that, if they are going to miss it, just to let us know. And everybody on Dodgem Logic was being paid for it, what I think were reasonable rates, and it was the same for everybody, whether they were a famous professional, or whether they were somebody from the Boroughs who was writing a column for us. No, I don’t think we were too despotic. You ask any of the other people who worked on Dodgem Logic – and I think that Calluz is doing an interview with The Quietus. It’s her first interview, she’s quite pleased about it – I think that she’d probably tell you what it was like working on Dodgem Logic. All of my tantrums, and the brutality and humiliation, and me sitting on top of a filing cabinet like Stan Lee, and dropping people’s cheques on the floor, so they had to grovel to me before they can pick them up. Nah, I don’t think… I’m very pleased with the way I’ve comported myself as Dodgem Logic‘s publisher.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, March 17th, 2011.