Saturday, 3 August 2013

The 'Last Promethea Story' Explained

Promethea (DC Comics, 1999-2004)
by Alan Moore & J.H. Williams III
(by email, 29 July 2013)
I was just wondering if you would be interested in posting Dave Sim's Last Promethea Story (which is really just a serious of fictional letters he made up) when I was once upon a time thinking of turning my online Promethea annotations into a book of some kind, like Jess Nevins' one on the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It never happened, but one of the people I did ask to contribute something to it was Dave and he was the only one to reply back extremely promptly, not with a sketch which is what I was hoping for, but with the letters. He recently mailed me a copy of it again. I lost the original when I moved house. Dave wrote a nice note on the title page "Feel free to lose these again" :-)

The Promethea letters have never been published anywhere as far as I know so it would be great for fans to find out all about them from your site. Not sure how well they would hold up as you need to have read at least the first Promethea book to understand some of the injokes he makes in the letters. I still have to ask Dave if he eventually finished all 32 issues of Promethea and what he thought of the whole thing once it was all over. I think he must have written the piece when it was only about half published.
Comic Book Artist #25 (Twomorrows, June 2003)
Art by J.H. Williams III
(by fax, 25 February 2013)
Promethea: No it wasn't my "cup of tea" but I think it's necessary if you want to be a well-rounded person (and I do want to be a well-rounded person) to read things that you know you're going to disagree with or that comes from an area of experience with which you aren't compatible. When I was at "T" and "M"'s place in Texas, "T" turned me onto John Layman's CHEW. And frankly told me that John Layman is still fuming about how badly I screwed up CEREBUS, you know, ten years later. Well, it's nothing personal I don't think -- it's going to happen. What are the odds that ANY creative work is going to satisfy even half of its audience when it runs for 26 years? Very poor. I don't resent it, I feel bad that I have -- or had -- a lot of John Layman's money and he didn't end up getting full value out of it. I can't say that I ENJOYED CHEW. It's pretty grim stuff when your lead character eats dead flesh to gain clear insight. I mean, in a way it's resonant with the Johnannie Jesus' "I am the bread of life": unless you eat my flesh, etc. You can just imagine how that impacted on Orthodox Jewish ears 2000 years ago. And "T" and I had a pretty rousing discussion about it when he got home from work. And I had "T" take a publicity shot of me beside his pool CHEWing on a corner of the trade. I thought John would get a kick out of it. But I do get to the point where I wonder if this is just gross-out horror for its own sake. And he's doing a LONG, LONG story so having got caught up on it, I still don't know. It's not an easy story to write, it's very popular and it's very long ALREADY. I don't regret reading it. "What a waste of my valuable time when I should be writing  STRANGE DEATH". I'll probably wait until it's done and buy the whole thing for myself and read it then. THAT category of fan. Same with LOCKE & KEY. I read the first two volumes at "T"s place and then asked Chris at IDW to send me the rest. It's very well done. It's intricately plotted, the dialogue is very sharp, the characters well delineated, the art is UNBELIEVABLY good, but it... really isn't my thing. But I was very happy to do a variant cover for the last issue when Chris asked. And I did a very quite, sweet moment in the middle of this intricately plotted inferno. I remember reading that scene and thinking, "If Chris asks me to do a pin-up for this, I know what I'm doing."

A cover? Hey even better. And I did it as Ditko's cover to SPIDER-MAN 29. I'll explain all that when IDW actually releases it.

PROMETHEA isn't really in that category. Alan got about as gross and mean-spirited as he was going to get with THE KILLING JOKE and SWAMP THING. That's the impression I have, I haven't read everything he's written. Even the gross-out parts of FROM HELL are pretty sedate. At the same time it's advocacy of a point of view. PROMETHEA, I mean. What a goddess is. What a goddess would be like, high and low, many levels and layers, intricately interwoven. He didn't sell me on it, but you can't help but admire the sheer writing ability that went into it. This didn't just land on the page like this, and there's a great deal of authenticity to it. Which, from where I sit, isn't the same as validity or Validity. But it's an interesting experience -- definitely not a waste of time -- to subject myself to it. I disagree with this. WHY do I disagree with this? It's nutritious if it gets you thinking about the exalted level of ability that Alan seems to hit effortlessly when he's firing on all cylinders as I think he was on PROMETHEA.

This is getting complicated considering my tribute story is like five pages long. Oh, well.

It was a weird juxtaposition. I heard from Gabriel McCann in Australia who sends me stuff and has sent me stuff. I have a MARX BROTHERS ENCYCLOPEDIA A to Z he sent me which I don't use all the time, but when you need it, you need it. And he was doing something with PROMETHEA. I forget. I call it his PROMEATHEA zine and he corrected me the last time he wrote to me (and sent me an autographed copy of Monty Python vet Michael Palin's HEMINGWAY ADVENTURE.) But I forget what the story is. But, you know, THERE! That's the kind of stuff that he does. And I tried to think of something quick and interesting I could do and send to him. He might even have asked for a drawing of PROMETHEA. Well, no, that isn't quick and easy. And I had just read the first book or the second book (it might even have been John Layman who sent it to me, come to think of it), so I was pretty savvy about the concepts and knew where to look for a gap that I could do a little five page novelty story around. Fitting into Alan's continuity. Alan doesn't strike me as someone who's going to, you know, sue you for doing his character without asking so it's always nice not to have to worry about that.

It was really me going back the other way. A way of applauding something that I disagreed with but had nothing but the deepest admiration for. Hoping I can so the same thing to Alan that Alan just did to me. Hope he would read it and think it wasn't a waste of his time (hopefully far from it).

Gabriel participated in the HARDtalk Virtual Tour and at one point I asked him if he ever published the story. And no, he had LOST it. I wrote it in like, 2005. Well, you know, it's got to be around here SOMEWHERE. I wouldn't send Gabriel the only copy. I was working on computer. I still don't know how to find things on my MacBook. Stuff Sandeep uploaded for me, but I'm gradually figuring it out (gum, gum, gum). I usually find something and then can't remember how I got there so I have to wait until I'm looking for something else, which is what happened.

Probably not "your cup of tea" but then, sometimes that's what it's all about.

There you go, and intro longer than the story.

1 comment:

Paul Slade said...

"Alan got about as gross and mean-spirited as he was going to get with THE KILLING JOKE and SWAMP THING. That's the impression I have, I haven't read everything he's written."

Neonomicon, as Moore says himself, is probably the darkest, bleakest most misanthropic thing he's ever written. The Killing Joke and Swamp Thing don't even come close to the depths of true horror he visits in this book. I think it's the best thing he's written since From Hell.