One of the greatest comics of all time: In Pictopia!

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Mike Fiffe is at it again with a scan of In Pictopia! by Alan Moore and Don Simpson. Originally published in 1986 in the Fantagraphics benefit Anything Goes!, and rarely seen since, this is considered by some to be Moore’s greatest single work. Read it now.

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Comments

  1. Joe S. Walker says:

    Read it, despised it.

  2. For those interested in doing more than making their MEH heard, ‘In Pictopia’ can be found in ‘The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore’ by George Khoury (TwoMorrows Publishing, $24.95 US) along with a smattering of other oddments & rarities.

    Warning: it’s been recolored, but I believe the new job is by Don Simpson.

  3. W. Craft says:

    It’s a bit odd to call the story “rarely seen”, when it’s been reprinted at least three times, as noted once in a book full of Moore sundries.

    Of course, it’s also a bit odd for a blog on “Publishers Weekly” to be linking to a blatant copyright violation like that. If someone posted every page of a DC comic story like that, would you link to it?

  4. It’s very good, but also very much of its time. With hindsight, it’s treating a passing phase as a terminal illness, which can’t help but date it.

  5. Lawson says:

    I remember this project! I bought it and read it in 1986 and liked it fine. Good stuff.

    That young Moore fellow is gonna make a name for himself one day.

  6. I think Don Simpson is wildly underrated–he is a fantastic cartoonist. His short-lived book Borderworlds was WAAAY ahead of its time and stands as my favorite of his long and varied career. I read this in ’86 also but didn’t fully appreciate it until I was older.

  7. Alexa says:

    W. Craft- Considering that Alan Moore wrote the story for free, I’ll bet it’s fairly low on his list of “copyrights I need to protect.” Besides, it’s not a story, it’s an allegory that satirizes/comments on the state of comics in the ’80s. It therefore has both historical and educational value, and one could make the argument that it is fair use.

    Besides, while scans_daily may test the line of fair use/copyright violation, it also encourages readership of current titles, and is fairly regularly visited and used by a number of well known comics creators, including Gail Simone and Warren Ellis.

  8. “Besides, it’s not a story, it’s an allegory that satirizes/comments on the state of comics in the ’80s. It therefore has both historical and educational value, and one could make the argument that it is fair use.”

    You can’t reproduce something 100% and call it fair use, even if it has educational value.

  9. Michel Fiffe says:

    W. Craft… I personally believe that the story is rarely seen because whenever I mention the story to frequent comic readers, comix pros or even Alan Moore fans, more often than not they haven’t even heard of the story. Some things can be published numerous times and still go on unnoticed. Thanks for weighing in, though!

    Paul O’Brien… that passing phase almost killed the industry, so the metaphors are appropriate. Anyway, have you taken a look at the modern comix rack?? “In Pictopia!” proves to be more telling than ever before!

    Monty Asheley & W. Craft: I make absolutely no money off of this personal venture, so I don’t see where I violate the law. Even if I did, would you penalize me for recording an album onto a cassette and giving it away to whomever I please?

    I’m sure Moore wouldn’t mind this story being passed around. I have no interest in profiteering from him. After all, no one can top DC in fucking with his copyrights.

  10. Seriously. What Fiffe’s doing is -archival-, not piracy.

    I consider scans_daily a useful service in that I’ll be curious about this or that book but am reluctant to shell out and/or order it sight-unseen– Previews being less than helpful (and even misleading) in that regard –so scans_daily oftentimes gives me a glimpse of what would otherwise fail to blip on my radar. It’s also unveiled a number of items by fave creators that I didn’t know existed– Heidi’s link to the Kyle Baker X-strips being a prime example. When The Beat, Dirk or Tom link to these things they’re helping disseminate information to people who are very, very likely to spend their hard-earned dosh finding & purchasing things they’ve seen on the group.

    In short, quit hatin’.

  11. I’m not “hatin’”; I’m just stating the fact that this does not remotely fall under Fair Use. There is no requirement that someone be making money in order to be violating the law. Recording a copyrighted album onto cassette and giving it away free is explicitly illegal. I’m surprised that you think it isn’t, really. That’s what copyright *means*; the person who holds the copyright has the “right” to decide who “copies” their work.

    For all I know, Alan Moore wouldn’t mind. But maybe he would; he sometimes gets touchy about things, you know? Either way, that’s an ethical question, not a legal one.

  12. Michel Fiffe says:

    Good thing you pointed out the difference between the legal and ethical stance on the subject. I know that recorded tapes are technically illegal, but aside from the fact that nobody implements that law, I made the comparison due to the common practice of this “violation”. I stand on ethical grounds, though, on which I believe I should have the right to share what I want to whomever I please, privately or publicly.

    Maybe I should’ve written Moore a letter to request his explicit permission to share his work. That would’ve made everybody happy.

    I make tons of mix tapes. I scan tons of comics. Under man-made law that is “criminal”, but there are worse crimes to be prosecuted for.

  13. AERose says:

    “It’s very good, but also very much of its time.”

    So is A Tale of Two Cities. Odd criticism, that.

  14. Let’s try a different tack.

    Scans_daily is a public library. The materials available for perusal were paid for by the patrons & are donated in facsimile form. People may browse as they please, copy off bits for pleasure or research purposes, and otherwise mingle, commenting, communicating & putting in requests.

    Whether this practice is ethically or legally viable isn’t really the point: scans enliven the comics culture and, as stated before, if someone really likes a work they’re liable to legally procure their own copy because jpgs just aren’t tactile enough for the true junkie.

    Someone might come in and xerox off the entirety of ‘The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket’, sure, but it’s not very likely they’re going to try hawking it on the street corner or, sillier still, passing it off as their own work. Chances are s/he made the copy for private use or due to scarcity. Is that worth notifying Interpol for? Hardly. (They’d only send Sean Cassidy, anyway.)

    In Moore’s case, I think it’s safe to say that the author’s rights remain undamaged– except, perhaps, in the touched minds of greedhead lawyers hungry for frivolous fees. Lucky for us all, then, that ‘In Pictopia’ was never published by Time / Warner or any of their subsidaries…

  15. Let’s try a different tack.

    Scans_daily is a public library. The materials available for perusal were paid for by the patrons & are donated in facsimile form. People may browse as they please, copy off bits for pleasure or research purposes, and otherwise mingle, commenting, communicating & putting in requests.

    Whether this practice is ethically or legally viable isn’t really the point: scans enliven the comics culture and, as stated before, if someone really likes a work they’re liable to legally procure their own copy because jpgs just aren’t tactile enough for the true junkie.

    Someone might come in and xerox off the entirety of ‘The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket’, sure, but it’s not very likely they’re going to try hawking it on the street corner or, sillier still, passing it off as their own work. Chances are s/he made the copy for private use or due to scarcity. Is that worth notifying Interpol for? Hardly. (They’d only send Sean Cassidy, anyway.)

    In Moore’s case, I think it’s safe to say that the author’s rights remain undamaged– except, perhaps, in the touched minds of greedhead lawyers hungry for frivolous fees. Lucky for us all, then, that ‘In Pictopia’ was never published by Time / Warner or any of their subsidiaries…

  16. Torsten Adair says:

    Interesting. Parallels “Who Censored Roger Rabbit”. I didn’t quite get the Blondie reference. Also, it needs to be recolored, given the panel presented above. Perhaps a washed out benday palette…
    And nothing against the artist, who has a wonderful skill in taking perfection and adding life’s imperfect perversions to everything. However, this story would be better with a Wally Wood or Kyle Baker or similar artists who can draw a variety of styles. The story would resonate more, the theme would be stronger, if the reader were sucked into the world, if it looked like any other comicbook.

  17. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I understand the gray areas that come with scanning stuff and sharing it with people, and someday in the next ten years this stuff will be reexamined and people will likely come to different conclusions and a different legal standard will even likely be set. In the meantime, many authors are perfectly happy to let people do as they will, and many authors have done a great job exploiting this kind of thing and profiting from it.

    But please let’s not all pretend that the ethics of it in every case are obvious and right and anyone who disagrees is somehow missing the point. They’re disagreeing with you, and if these counter-arguments are the best you can do, it’s pretty pathetic. Did someone really use a mix tape argument? Really?

    Since the illegality is admitted, it’s perfectly reasonable for there to be a competing stance where doing something illegal is unethical even if you believe you’re not violating the rights you choose to assign the author.

    The rights you choose to assign the author.

    Even if it’s not your stance, someone can also come to a perfectly reasonable conclusion that this kind of thing is unethical because they believe that doing something with a book that you can get away with or assert as legal or ethical or that you feel benefits the authors in a way that you define how they should benefit is not as important as doing what the author wishes to have done with that material.

    To say that the author’s rights remain undamaged is arrogant and willfully ignorant. It’s also applying a limited definition in a conversation about wider ethical standards — the kind of switching back and forth according to how it suits your argument that defensive teenagers use. The key is you have no idea what the authors want. You didn’t ask! They may want you to do this, but then again, they may not! There’s all sorts of options for authors that having a free, widely-publicized scan on-line makes more difficult. You are limiting the author’s options, not freeing them — and either way, you shouldn’t be making that decision for them.

    Saying something along the lines of “maybe I should have contacted the author” like this is somehow some horrible, unfair task just makes anyone who takes this position sound like a petulant child and really exposes the me-wanty aspects to these enterprises. Both “me wanty this material” and “me wanty to be the person who provides this to people.”

    Re-defining the republication of something as a library is ludicrous. Libraries aren’t allowed to scan and copy and disseminate material. They don’t allow you to Xerox entire books, or at least they’re not supposed to. they don’t let you make a book on tape and sell it to the world. You’re living in a world of willful denial if you think that people go to a scan like this for research purposes as opposed to an alternate way to see and consume the material.

    Anyone who engages in this sort of practice should have to be an author who decides that this is either okay or not with all of their material, and then should have people ignore whatever their decision is and do the exact opposite thing.

    Again, I know the gray areas involved, and I fully admit that the practice is going to happen no matter how people define where they stand and what they believe right now. But I don’t think these areas are all that gray if you really value artists and authors enough to let them make the decision over how their material is to be used instead of substituting your own judgment, no matter how much more special or ethical or smart or modern or non-applicable or even good for them you think your decision is.

    If you really start from the position of wanting to support authors ethically and legally, I doubt it ever leads you to scan their work for public consumption without asking them first.

    BTW: If free scans lead to more people buying a work and make money for the authors, which also isn’t an established-enough argument for it to be asserted as absolute truth, this would also be true if you asked the authors. If you paid the authors to republish their work for free on the Internet, they’d get more readers for the tactile version and they’d get some money. Greater good, meet even greater good. Please note that I don’t think you should get to make that choice, but let’s not fool ourselves to think that a greater good argument is as simple as is usually asserted.

    So while this is certainly a gray area and a lot of people support it including many artists and a lot of people benefit from it, too, including many artists, and maybe Moore and Simpson will be thrilled to learn about this free dissemination, can we drop the massive, self-serving delusion this is anything other than an assumption of authorial control (either retained or assigned) for benefits defined or undefined?

    Also, it’s not 1997: nearly everyone is on-line now. I bet you could have a great scans site made up of material that authors explicitly assign for that purpose. It would take a bit of work, of course, and might not be as fun, but it’s totally possible.

  18. W. Craft says:

    I don’t see anyone talking about “prosecuting”, and it’s an open question if the “author’s rights remain undamaged”, but that’s a whole other set of issues.

    I just think if you’re going to endorse violating copyright, just say that’s what you’re doing, and spare us this bullshit about “fair use” or “educational” or “archival” or “a public library”. At least Michael is comparatively frank on that issue. Though “not fucking up creators as much as DC” is setting the bar kind of low…

    I was more struck by the blog of a reputable publishing industry magazine linking directly to such a violation. We all know that just about any mainstream TV show, movie, record, novel or comic book is readily available for unauthorized download online soon after release. That genie’s not going back in the bottle. But to see PW endorse such a thing seems odd. Again, would this blog link to an unauthorized scan of a full DC or Marvel story? How about to a PDF of a Harry Potter novel? Where’s that line?

    I’d have some sympathy if it was a link to something genuinely obscure or hard to find or out of print and unlikely to ever be reprinted, but I can still buy ANYTHING GOES #2 for under $2, I can get the BEST COMICS anthology that included it for $12 and I can easily pick up one of multiple editions of the TwoMorrows book for under cover price.

  19. Brian says:

    I actually unearthed my Anything Goes books and looked through them recently. Fun book!

    Brian

  20. You’re right, Monty, no-one’s said anything about prosecution. Easy to see why Fiffe’d take that particular defensive stance, though, what with you coming on with the air quotes and increasingly angry verbal posture, freshly peppered with obscenity… HOORJ for civilized discourse.

    On the other hand, it’s always an honor to get stomped on by Tom! Ten tons of point-for-point– makes me feel less self-conscious about the accidental double-post.

    Fun as this discussion may be, I concede defeat re: definitions & rushing to Fiffe’s defense. My position’s obviously untenable– esp. defining the author’s moral rights, for which I duly fess up, Tom, I am completely wrong there –but I don’t see the affair as cut-and-dried as the armchair lawyers on BoingBoing would have it, either. Copyfight will continue to be argued in & out of court with every advance in technology, and I’m fairly certain it will continue to be a draw with concessions to be made on both sides.

    The side I’m arguing, ludicrous & bullshitty as it may be, is the simple-minded one already stated: I see scans_daily as a resource to be used *as I described.* My rules and not the world’s, I know, but if it hadn’t been for scans I wouldn’t have been reminded of ‘In Pictopia’ two years ago, and it was a commenter in that very same group who pointed out the TwoMorrows reprint to me. It now resides on my shelf, same as a number of other items procured in a similar fashion: research via scans. No, the public library defense wouldn’t stand in court, but it’s a practice shared by me and my comic-reading friends out here in meatspace. We see something online we like while browsing, we find it in the real world and we pay for it. Sorry if that sounds like freebooting utopian hokum, but it’s true.

    Then again, I’m one of those schmucks who observes the honor system and only takes the paper I paid for. What do I know? Criminals are a cowardly superstitious mutter mutter…

  21. [ First graf: W. Craft, not Monty. My mistake. ]

  22. Michel Fiffe says:

    Tom… It’s not that I’m acting defensive when I’m called out on something, and I don’t think these folks are “missing the point”, I just think that I should be able to scan and present what I want online whether it be something truly obscure or the latest Iron Man (c). I understand that there are a lot of gray areas in this matter, but I read the rules of the scans_daily community before I even joined. I trust that if I were to do anything that would put anyone in danger of the law, they would either notify me or take down my post entirely. Sure, the mix tape analogy was a broad stroke, but I think it’s silly that dubbing a cassette is breaking the law.

    Yeah, “me wanty” to share this with a few folks over at scans_daily, but I’m glad all these issues were brought up and discussed a bit, name calling and all.

  23. The Beat says:

    Re: my own ethical stance. This story originally appeared in a long out-of-print form in a benefit for a lawsuit that was settled long ago.

    Amazon does not carry the most recent reprinting, The Extraordinary Works Of Alan Moore, and used copies go for anywhere from $35-88.

    Publisher TwoMorrows also reports the book is OOP, however a new, expanded edition is coming in December.

    So the story is not currently available, and its level of obscurity is such that, if anything, the sampling may actually INCREASE sales of the upcoming TwoMorrows volume (that is, if you believe online sampling increases physical sales, which I do.)

    So, call me a pirate, but this passes my own, personal ethical sniff test. If Alan Moore, Don Simpson, Gary Groth, John Morrow or anyone else asks me to take the link down I will. I realize this response won’t make everyone happy…but then nothing would.

    For the record, I wouldn’t link to scans of current readily available work, much of which is found on Scans Daily on a regular basis.

    Would this sniff test stand up in a court of law? Probably not.

  24. I’m not sure the “mix tape” defense is entirely irrelevant.

    If you cut out only one song from an entire album, and reproduce it in the company of unrelated songs by other artists, you have in effect changed the context in which you’re presenting the song, in a manner somewhat comparable to the famous example of Lichenstein reproducing isolated panels of comic-book art in another medium.

    The main difference, obviously, is that Lichtenstein has reproduced part of a discernable whole, while, legally at least, each song on an album is regarded as a discernable whole in itself, apart from its association with other songs on the album. That individual songs can also be marketed as “singles” (or could be back in the age of vinyl) would seem to support the notion of a single song as a discernable whole.

    However, if one’s mix tape includes only incomplete sections of songs, would that be as legal as Lichtenstein’s use of the comics-images?

  25. I’d vote for a full reprinting of Anything Goes, although the rights might be a nightmare. Neal Adams does Cerebus? Score! Frank Miller and Lynn Varley do Ronin for someone other than DC? It’s there! Jack Kirby’s Silver Star, a Journey short by Loebs, Gil Kane’s Savage, Usagi Yojimbo… This series was a feast.

  26. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Michel, I think the act of dubbing a tape being illegal makes perfect sense, even when strict enforcement and penalties don’t. But that’s me. My main objection is that the examples aren’t in any way comparable because of differences in degree and kind.

    The whole people will profit from it just seems so obnoxious and presumptuous to me, above and beyond the fact it can’t be quantified.

    It seems to me really, really easy to gain permission these days that publishing it and then taking it down seems like a last resort rather than a rational operating philosophy. It also seems like there are plenty of comics on-line to read or link to or even scan where there’s no question.

    In the end I’m always going to maintain that we should see as more important the authors’ right and responsibilty to direct their own work in whatever way they see fit over our choice how they should be directing their work or our pleasure in posting it or consuming it.

  27. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Gene, this isn’t a confrontational question meant to illustrate/drive home a point, but a genuine question of interest: would you be perfectly okay with people re-running your site’s essays but including new art, including them among different essays, or dropping the last sentence? Wouldn’t the most ethical strategy be for people to contact you and ask permission?

    Heidi, so am I to assume you’ll be okay with me re-publishing your essay from TCJ #200 at CR? And even if you are, wouldn’t you prefer that I ask?

  28. The Beat says:

    I would prefer that you ask, but we are — roughly speaking — competitors, and repurposing each others old content would look weird.

    A lot of people have asked for the contents of that specific issue to be put online. If you were putting the entirely of issue #200 on some scan site, you would be hurting, from a material standpoint, people who sell the issue on ebay, or else Fantagraphics and their planned reprint edition or repurposing of the content in question (which I assume they don’t have for some of it, like my essay, since I seem to recall that the Journal only purchased first NA serial rights).

    A more germane question, to my mind, would be why what would be your motives for doing such a thing?

  29. Tom Spurgeon says:

    To make sure that people had access to it as a member of the freewheeling virtual library of ideas that is CR, of course.

    So just to be clear, it has to be something you can’t get elsewhere, and the person has to have acceptable motives and not be certain people and you would prefer they ask you and demonstrate these motives? Because you made it sounds like first one was the only one that mattered.

    Fantagraphics only bought first NA rights and exclusivity for six months. That essay is all yours. Although, due to a hitch in law, they could probably publish it on-line as archival material if they scanned the pages instead of re-ran the article’s text. I think this would not be admirable of them, and have expressed that idea on the old TCJ threads when just such a possibility is raised. For me, you being given the most control over your essay and setting the standards by which it is seen — to decide which question is germane to them — serves a greater good than having people read it in a way of their choosing.

    I also think that Fair Use as widely understand and practiced by the overwhelming majority of responsible journalists trumps that control, just as the greater cultural good served by having material fall into public domain a reasonable period after a creator’s death trumps it as well.

    I struggle with these issues, too. It just occurs to me now because I’m stupid that the Arnold Roth story I linked to today probably isn’t in the public domain, and I linked to some X-Men stories that Kyle Baker did that if I thought about it for two seconds I probably wouldn’t have. The issue fascinates me, though.

  30. Tom asks:

    “Gene, this isn’t a confrontational question meant to illustrate/drive home a point, but a genuine question of interest: would you be perfectly okay with people re-running your site’s essays but including new art, including them among different essays, or dropping the last sentence? Wouldn’t the most ethical strategy be for people to contact you and ask permission?”

    In a public venue, asking permission would be appropriate, just as it would have been appropriate for Roy Lichtenstein to ask permission of the publisher of those panels (even though the publisher probably didn’t give a royal fart about them). Same for that recent tsurris (did I use that right?) about the copyrighted character of Batman showing up in some museum artist’s repertoire– I think TB covered that somewhere.

    I would not define mix tapes as a public venue, even though the copyright notice in front of every commercial video usually stated that the property is not meant to be copied in any way or shared with anyone who didn’t pay for it. But mix tapes are customarily passed through so few hands that I have trouble defining that as a “public.”

    Now, almost everything on the Net is a public venue, saving perhaps sites that require one to sign up for viewing privileges. Given my feeling on mix tapes, I might indeed say, “Yeah, share excerpts of my observations with a restricted group of people with whatever bells and whistles you like; just not the public at large.” I do that much on a voluntary basis in an apa of about 50 people. I would object to having people claim I said things I didn’t say– that’s why I left Comicon.com– but I could hardly object to an accurate excerpt.

  31. W. Craft says:

    “So the story is not currently available, and its level of obscurity is such that, if anything, the sampling may actually INCREASE sales of the upcoming TwoMorrows volume (that is, if you believe online sampling increases physical sales, which I do.)”

    TwoMorrows clearly does as well, which is probably why it makes a huge percentage of the book available on Google Books, including two pages of this story. That’s the segment the licensor of the work chose to put on an on-line venue.

    I’m still trying to figure out where you’d draw that line. SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #20 has been unavailable in any form from DC for over 20 years (even the recent announcement of a reprint won’t be out until after the new edition of EXTRAORDINARY WORKS), it’s always been much harder to find and much more expensive to get than ANYTHING GOES #2. Would a link to a scan of that be kosher until the new book comes out? Would it be kosher if DC hadn’t recently announced an upcoming reprint?

  32. Note: According to George Khoury this story will NOT be included in the upcoming reprint of “The Extraordinary Works of…”

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