Marvelman, Swamp Thing and Watchmen

By Barry Kavanagh, 17 October 2000

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You mentioned Marvelman a minute ago, also known as
Miracleman. That is completely unavailable, I’ve never seen an
issue of that.

Uh, yeah, that had a tangled story to begin with.

There was never any talk of collecting it or anything?

Oh, it was collected, by Eclipse Comics. Eclipse Comics went bust. At
that point I believe that I owned a third of Marvelman, which
by that point I was so sick of all the back-and-forth on the character
that I just handed that over to Neil Gaiman and just said “Look, if
you want to do it, you can have my third of the ownership of the

And he did a few issues.

He did a few issues but the thing is that what happened was Eclipse
went bankrupt and then Todd McFarlane bought up the whole of Eclipse
for some reason and at the moment, the last I heard was that Todd
McFarlane and Neil Gaiman have got quite a dispute between themselves
so it’s just stuff that I’ve – you know, it’s served its purpose and
I’ve got copies of it somewhere but I can’t remember exactly where.

But your run on Swamp Thing is now unavailable –

Oh, they’re making it available again now, they’ve just started
bringing it out, the whole series in colour books from America.

Oh really? ‘Cause I remember Titan Books had about a dozen of them.

Yeah, they brought out a series of them in black and white but in
America they’ve just started bringing them out as colour volumes and
they’re going to go through the whole series, apparently.

Right, that’s good. What number did you start with?

#21? Or #20?

And how many did you do?

Up to about #65, something like that and there’s probably a couple of
annuals in there or forty pages or whatever.

I read some of it at the time but I don’t have any copies or
anything so I’d like to kind of discover that stuff.

Yeah. It was experimental work, it was the first time that I’d got
colour and twenty-four pages to play with. So I was able to kind of
splash out and do a few things that I’d only been able to dream about
doing with black and white material.

Watchmen. Like V for Vendetta, there’s no objective
narrator there and all the characters have very different

Well in Watchmen, in some ways you could say that it’s grown
out of Marvelman in that it has a very dystopic view of the
superhero world. Probably, in terms of technique, it kind of grew more
out of V for Vendetta.

Yeah, that’s what I was thinking, there’s that kind of “layered”
thing again.

There’s that but Watchmen is a lot more complex than V for
. In pointlessly comparing the two works, what I’ve often
said is that Watchmen has probably got more head and more
intellect or something than V for Vendetta but V for
‘s got more passion.

Oh, right!

V for Vendetta is very smart, it perhaps doesn’t have the sort
of multi-layered, crystalline brilliance as something like
Watchmen but I think it’s got more passion. I think it’s got
more heart, more emotion in it. That said, there both works that I’m
very proud of. Watchmen was at the time about as far as I could
imagine taking the mainstream superhero comic. It seemed to take it to
some place that was so completely off the map.

Yeah, at the time I was thinking “Well, this is the end of the
genre,” you know?

Well at the time I think I had vain thoughts, thinking “Oh well,
no-one’s going to be able to follow this, they’ll all just have to
stop producing superhero comics and do something more rewarding with
their lives” but no, what happened was that it just started a whole
genre of pretentious comics or miserable comics – or you could even
see, you look at the Image comics of the early ’90s, and you could see
people who were predominantly superhero artists who hadn’t got much of
a grasp of writing, trying to sort of lift riffs from Watchmen,
Dark Knight, you know, those mid-’80s books. It was like
looking at your deformed bastard grandchildren or something like that.
Yeah, I think that David Bowie once referred to himself as “The face
that launched a thousand pretensions,” and you can somehow kind of
feel the same way [as] when I saw the actual effect of Watchmen
upon comics [which] was probably a kind of deleterious effect, which
is not surprizing I guess. Often the better works in any medium have
the most negative effect. It’s paradoxical but you get, say, something
like Harvey Kurtzman’s MAD comics in the mid-’50s, which to my
mind if I had to pick one single comic book that was the best comic
book ever it would be Kurtzman’s MAD, that was the best comic
book ever in my opinion but the thing is that, brilliant though it
was, it doomed us to sixty years of humour comics named after some
sort of mental aberration or illness.


Cracked, Sick, Bug Fuck. There wasn’t actually
called Bug Fuck but I always thought there should have been.
And they’re all going to have a parody of the movies in them and it
won’t actually be funny because they’re only really going through the
motions of what Harvey Kurtzman did, they’re just trading on a couple
of his riffs but they’re not actually funny people in the way that
Harvey Kurtzman was. And it’s like almost anything, if a good movie
comes out, it dooms you. If there’s a good science fiction movie, you
know that for the next ten or fifteen years, science fiction’s
going to go right down the drain because everybody is just going to be
slavishly copying this one particular movie.

Yeah, it’s the kind of thing that always happens.

It is. It’s just a thing where anything that’s good or original, it’s
probably bad news. [Laughs]. It’s going to doom you to ten or fifteen
years of things that are neither good nor original.

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