Saturday, April 3, 2010

Steve Bissette on labeling, censorship and the DC ratings controversy from 1986-87

If you're unaware, Steve Bissette - acclaimed artist for Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing - along with John Totleben, Rick Veitch, and other talented creators - as well as the creator of Tyrant, Bissette's aborted comic about the life of a Tyrannosaurus Rex - has a blog he regularly updates. And recently, he has compiled a 12-part essay on the ratings war of 1986-87.

With DC comics finally surpassing Marvel in market share, for a time, thanks to groundbreaking works from Alan Moore and Frank Miller (Watchmen & Batman: the Dark Knight Returns, respectively), a furor built up around these and other comics over the adult nature of the narratives. With one faction calling for ratings on books (and an extreme branch calling for books with adult material not even to be produced), Moore and Miller, along with a number of prominent creators such as Howard Chaykin and Marv Wolfman, pushed back against this edict for a number of reasons - actions that saw Wolfman fired from DC for speaking out and Alan Moore walking away from mainstream comics.

Using primary sources such as The Comics Journal, Comics Buyer's Guide, personal letters from Moore, et al., along with his personal dealings in the comic industry at the time, Bissette lays out what happened and what it meant for those creators who followed. It's a well thought out, even-handed series of essays that enlightens a time that, for me, the heyday of my comic collecting. Important, not just as an historical document, but also as a warning against ratings (as ubiquitous as they have become). Ratings don't work, and if you think differently, you should read this series from Bissette. Hit the links below:

part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5
part 6
part 7
part 8
part 9
part 10
part 11
part 12

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