Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Taboo is Still -- Taboo!

Bless you, Joe McCulloch aka 'Jog' and Brian Hibbs!

Proprietor of the San Fran-based Comix Experience and among the most outspoken retailer activists in the comics market, Brian was among my fave of the comics retailers who rattled the cage bars of the direct sales market back in the day, and his 'Savage Critics' blog is always an excellent and insightful read.

Leave it to Brian's fellow (guest?) Savage Critics blogger Jog to accurately summerize (and I do mean accurately) a major block of my former life in comics.
  • The Savage Critics recent post on Taboo, particularly one of my favorite issues -- our breakthrough second volume -- brought back many fond memories
  • and a great relief that (a) I did it and (b) it's all behind me. Ah, those were the days... much good came of it, but oh, what a wild and woolly ride.

  • Tim Lucas's followup post, focusing on Taboo 2's overlooked gem "Sweet Nothings" by Tim, in partnership with the adventurous Simonida Perica-Uth, is worth a read, too.

  • It's nice to know that some folks remember. Taboo is most often shrugged off these days as the vaguely recalled anthology title that had something to do with From Hell and Lost Girls -- two works that might not have existed without Taboo -- and left at that. It was what it was in its day, and unpacking and revisiting the run recently I found it holds up mighty well. Still, with all the ways shock-pop culture has amped up since, from DC's Vertigo line (surfacing after Taboo's debut issues; in fact, Karen Berger evoked Taboo in conversation prior to the Vertigo launch, and I fielded more than a few calls from Vertigo editors seeking contact with Taboo contributors) to reality TV to mainstream studio "confined horror" (filmmaker Lance Weiler's term) torture opuses like the Saw and Hostel franchises, its surprising to me Taboo holds up at all. But then again, it was never just about grossing out the reader -- a fact few understood, save the contributors and fellow travelers.

    While unpacking, I also stumbled across my original 1989-90 notes, script roughs, a few pieces of art and some photocopies of sketches (the originals were long ago sold to a beloved private collector and friend) for the planned Michael Zulli/Bissette adaptation of Clive Barker's classic short story "Rawhead Rex" (from the Books of Blood anthology series, Clive's breakthrough creation). I also found my copy of the US paperback edition of the Books volume featuring "Rawhead" in which I broke down the entire adaptation, page for page, with handwritten notations (in pencil) including my notes from a lengthy phone conversation with Clive that yielded his permission to add one key sequence -- a mere five panels -- that the whole adaptation hung upon.

    As Jog notes, that planned Taboo serialization was deep-sixed when then-extant Eclipse Publishing gobbled up young writer/packager Steve Niles, his Arcane imprint, and the "Rawhead Rex" adaptation rights; all to corral the Clive Barker properties and secure Eclipse's brief dominion of that turf in the comics market. I still recall sitting in my old Lower Dover Road studio trailer in Marlboro, VT when Dean Mullaney rung me up, happily acknowledging our "new partnership," which both Michael and I refused to engage with ("we're not baseball players to be traded," Michael said at the time -- right-o, Michael, per usual). Too bad -- we'd done a lot of work on it, and Michael's paintings and sketches were astounding. Clive had approved our take on "Rawhead," which remains unlike any other. It was my own hard experience with Eclipse ineptitude and loathing for the horror genre -- which, ironically, became their cash cow in their final year or two -- that in part prompted our decision. In hindsight, it was absolutely the correct decision. In the short term, Eclipse fudged many of their Barker adaptations (the greatest loss, to my mind, being their ham-fisted editorial termination of a P. Craig Russell adaptation; P. Craig once showed me photocopies of a few pages of this work, and it was incredible -- what a loss). In the long term, tying our "Rawhead" caboose to the Eclipse train would have been disastrous, had we done our "Rawhead" -- I mean, look at the interminable Marvelman/Miracleman debacle. I shudder to think of our efforts floundering in the Eclipse assets auction -- neither Michael or I would have been able to afford paying Eclipse for anything at that time in our lives, and the rights would have been legally attached to those of the Barker/Books of Blood properties in any case -- landing in the McFarlane (or Barker -- what happened to all that work?) stable(s). Sometimes, walking away is the best thing to do. Take my word for it.

    Well, it's all water under the bridge. I'll get this "Rawhead" stuff online soon, on the new site. Suffice to say for now that Taboo accomplished much, and did indeed fulfill the goals co-creator John Totleben and I had set out to achieve. We changed the landscape and the genre of horror comics for the better, and it's not often one gets to look back and say that about much of anything. Anyhoot, Taboo and Eclipse have had their day, From Hell and Lost Girls and Throat Sprockets and Through the Habitrails (among others) realized their full potential well beyond the meager $100-per-page confines of Taboo, and that's to the good. As for "Rawhead" -- just one of Taboo's unrealized dream-nightmares -- well, all that matters really is that Steve Niles survived Eclipse and never stopped writing and believing in himself. Steve, as you all know, has gone on to bigger and better things, and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie based on his potent 30 Days of Night, coming soon to a theater near all of us.

    Thanks for the kind words, Jog, Brian and Tim, and for tonight's Taboo memories.

    [And yes, they're still available from me, save for Taboo 6, which is indeed sold out --
  • -- the listings and current prices are here; click on the 'store' on the left menu and scroll down the 'Online Emporium' listings to Taboo.
  • Though Cat and I have yet to set up the shopping cart function (still learning how to do that!), I do accept PayPal (payable to and will offer a package price to those purchasing three or more issues. If you want to sample an issue, send me $6.00 (postpaid in the US) and I'll send you a copy of an issue -- any purchases happily signed/personalized, at your request.]

    Sooooooo I visited my doctor again today due to the 'pinkeye' malingering, though it's been two weeks. Turns out it's -- something else. Bacterial, not viral, and not contagious. The new eyedrops are working nicely, thank you, but between this and the new semester at CCS picking up steam, I'll be posting here during different time of the day through the fall. If I'm not here in the AM, I'll be posting in the PM; either way, I'll keep the daily dose coming.

    Have a great Wednesday night and Thursday morning...

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