This article originally appeared in Strangehaven issue issue #15, May 2003.
It’s strange how one thing leads to another.
At last year’s Bristol Comics Festival, I was approached by a young Italian gentleman who introduced himself as “smoky man” and requested an interview for his Italian website Ultrazine. I granted his request, and later did a substantial interview with him via e-mail. In addition, I also agreed to the translation and subsequent posting on his site of an Italian-language version of an excerpt from the first issue of Strangehaven. Very strange indeed to see Alex spouting Italian without the slightest hint of a home counties accent.
(Tangentially, this has led to a foreign publishing deal with the very fine Black Velvet Editrice of Bologna, Italy, for an ongoing prestige format Strangehaven series in the Italian language, the first issue of which is due for publication around about now.)
In the course of smoky man’s interview and translation, he had asked me if I would be interested in contributing to his Alan Moore Special, a tribute section on his Ultrazine site that had been ongoing since 2000. I agreed immediately – I’ve always considered Alan as one of my favourite writers and probably the greatest comics writer of the modern age. In fact, as I told smoky, Alan was one of the names I had marked down as one of a number of potential subjects for a series of short comics biographies I had been considering for little while.
It was around then, or perhaps before (my memory is pretty hazy about the exact order of these things), that smoky told me he was planning to compile the best of the Alan Moore website pieces in an Italian print publication in time for Alan’s 50th birthday in October 2003, and would I consider contributing my Alan Moore bio to this print project?
It’ll be for charity, he told me. smoky’s family had been affected by Alzheimer’s disease and he intended the project to raise funds for the Italian Alzheimer’s association, the AIMA. Sure, I said. My bio would probably be about four pages long. And I have oodles of time to do it. Smoky asked then if I would consider contributing the cover for the project, too. It would be an honour, I said.
He wasted no time in lining up an Italian publisher – Omar Martini’s Black Velvet Editrice – who had already published the Italian edition of Lance Parkin’s Pocket Essential: Alan Moore book.
At some point in the intervening period, smoky told me that he was thinking that it would be a good idea to seek a publisher in order to produce an English-language edition in tandem with Black Velvet, and asked my opinion. Great idea, I said, and suggested a few publishers, who eventually, for one reason or another declined or were deemed unsuitable.
Then, smoky asked me if Abiogenesis Press would be interested in publishing the book.
Now, I must digress for a while. Way back in 1985, I produced a charity comic book called Food For Thought which was inspired by Bob Geldof’s Band Aid record and plans for the Live Aid show. It preceded Marvel and DC’s versions, Heroes For Hope and Heroes For Hunger by some distance.
Food For Thought came together with the support of the British comics industry pretty quickly, (including a Bryan Talbot illustrated Alan Moore story, “Cold Snap” which was previously unpublished at that point) although not without some hard work and hassles. Warren Ellis, a budding fanzine writer at the time, helped me put the book together (along with two other guys Dave Whitwell and Matt Ginn). We sold out of the thousand-copy print run within a couple of weeks and although the book was a fantastic success and raised a modest sum for Ethiopian famine relief, the experience was more than a little time-consuming. Never again, I said.
Still, this was seventeen years ago. Maybe it was time for another small charity project. It was to recognise the genius of Alan Moore, fine chap that he is, and most of the donkeywork had already been done by my Italian counterparts. Or so I imagined.
As soon as I started working on the project, I realised how cool it could be. I had some suggestions for possible additional contributors, additional features. Omar, smoky and I discussed our game plan and divided up the editorial chores between us. After gaining Moore’s permission and blessing to go ahead with the book, we started attempting to contacting creators who had worked with Alan, and big name creators who were known to be fans of his work.
It wasn’t long (about two days if I remember correctly) before my vague mental image of a 32-page black and white comic book with a colour cover faded and was replaced with the mammoth 300-page-plus volume the project has since morphed into. I’m ashamed to admit that I had rather seriously underestimated the pulling power that Alan Moore’s name alone possesses. Or rather, I had underestimated the ability of a couple of relatively unknown European comics guys to secure the contributions from such a huge number of top-notch creators from across the world of comics and beyond.
We also made the decision to split the total proceeds (i.e. all net profits) of both the Italian and English versions, between AIMA, and the international Alzheimer’s charity the ADI, which is based in London.
The finished book, due for publication at the same time as this issue of Strangehaven, will, I hope, be a fitting tribute to Mr. Moore and at the same time raise a substantial sum for our designated charities.
The book has surpassed even our most optimistic imaginings. The final book will run to a massive 352 pages containing a fabulously high standard of contributions from a star-studded line-up of over 120 of the world’s top authors, artists, and cartoonists.
The amazing array of creators participating include best selling authors Michael Moorcock, Neil Gaiman, Iain Sinclair, Darren Shan, and Brad Meltzer: Illustrators John Coulthart, Peter Kuper, Bill Koeb and Ken Meyer Jr.: Moore collaborators Dave Gibbons, Bryan Talbot, David Lloyd, J H Williams III, Kevin O’Neill, Rick Veitch, Steve Bissette, José Villarubia, Steve Parkhouse, Bill Sienkiewicz, John Higgins: Comics industry heavyweights Will Eisner, Adam Hughes, Jimmy Palmiotti, Michael Avon Oeming, Sean Phillips, Michael T. Gilbert, Jeff Smith, Nabiel Kanan, Al Davidson, Ben Templesmith, Duncan Fegredo and Walt Simonson: Underground stars Trina Robbins, Howard Cruse and Angus McKie: British cartoonists Mike Higgs, Lew Stringer, Ilya, Robin Smith, Woodrow Phoenix and Mike Collins: Indie favourites James Kochalka , Rich Koslowski, Eric Shanower, Jason Hall, Matt Kindt, Metaphrog, Scott Mills and Scott Morse: Plus Moore’s musical collaborator Tim Perkins.
Additional contributors from every corner of the world of comics include Sergio Toppi, Giorgio Cavazzano and Claudio Villa (all from Italy), Daniel Acuna (Spain), Willy Linthout (Belgium), Jean-Marc Lofficier (France) Eduardo Risso (Argentina), Dave Sim (Canada), Ben Templesmith (Australia) and Dylan Horrocks (New Zealand).
Most notably, I managed to secure the services of ex-Python and film director extraordinaire, Terry Gilliam to write the introduction for the book.
Contributions include everything from single illustrations to multi-page comic strips, articles, reminiscences and anecdotes about Alan’s life and work, essays, stories, poetry (yes, poetry), rare photographs and an interview by Omar Martini, published for the first time in English. There’s also a rare stuff by Mr. Moore himself, including a strip illustrated by Dame Darcy and an illustration by Moore from Michael T. Gilbert’s Mr. Monster comic.
Oh, and then there’s the illustrated Alan Moore biography that I somehow managed to cobble together. All twelve pages of it, as it turned out.
[Although I did withdraw my offer of a cover as I thought it would be a little self-indulgent for the publisher to paint the front of a book containing such an incredible array of talent. Early on we replaced my suggested illustration with a fine photographic image by Piet Corr.]
Support throughout the industry has been phenomenal. Not only from the contributors to the book, but also from our main distributor Diamond and the numerous comics news websites. I wish to thank everyone who has played a part in this fantastic venture. Now, if you haven’t already done so, go and buy a copy.
It’s available from all good comic stores worldwide and you should be able to order it from most bookstores, be sure to quote the ISBN number listed below. You can also order it directly from www.millidge.com.
And remember, all profits from the book will be going to help sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alan Moore: Portrait of An Extraordinary Gentleman
Edited by ‘smoky man’ and Gary Spencer Millidge
Book design and production by Gary Spencer Millidge
Cover photograph by Piet Corr
352 page TRADE PAPERBACK 6 X 8 ½ inches
Colour covers/B & W interiors with 32 pages in colour
Cover Price US $ 14.95 / UK £ 10.99
ISBN: 0 946790 06 X
ADI – Alzheimer’s Disease International
AIMA – Italian Association for Alzheimer’s disease
Ultrazine Moore Special – www.ultrazine.org/special_moore.htm
Ultrazine Millidge interview – www.ultrazine.org/ultraparole/millidge/english.htm
More info at – www.millidge.com