Last updated 7 February 2006. The latest version of this document can always be found at  See last page for legal & © information.

Additions? Corrections? Contact Richard J. Arndt:



Spider-Baby Graphix



    1. cover: Steve Bissette/back cover: Rolf Stark (Fall 1988)

                1) Introduction [Clive Barker] 3p   [text article]

                2) Censortivity Pin-Up [Steve Bissette] 1p

                3) S. Clay Wilson Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                4) The Kitty Killer Kids [S. Clay Wilson] 2p

                5) Alan Moore/Bill Wray Profile [Steve Bissette] 2p   [text article]

                6) Come On Down [Alan Moore/Bill Wray] 9p

                7) Charles Vess Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                8) Scarecrow [Charles Vess] 5p

                9) Tom Sniegoski/Mike Hoffman Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p

                10) Tooth Decay [Tom Sniegoski/Mike Hoffman] 10p

                11) Charles Burns Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                12) Contagious [Charles Burns] 4p

                13) Bernie Mireault Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                14) Cable [Bernie Mireault] 13p

                15) Jack Butterworth/Cam Kennedy Profile [Steve Bissette/various] 2p   [text article, art from

various 1950s horror comics]

                16) Eyes Without A Face [Jack Butterworth/Cam Kennedy] 8p

                17) Tim Lucas/Mike Hoffman Profile [Steve Bissette] 2p   [text article]

                18) Throat Sprockets [Tim Lucas/Mike Hoffman] 12p

                19) Eddie Campbell Profile [Steve Bissette] 2p   [text article]

                20) The Pyjama Girl [Eddie Campbell] 4p

                21) Introduction [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                22) Cottonmouth [Steve Bissette] 5p

                23) Chigger And The Man [Keith Giffen & Robert Loren Fleming/Keith Giffen] 10p

                24) Chester Brown Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                25) Dirk The Gerbil [Chester Brown] 2p   reprinted from Escape #7 (?)

                26) A Late Night Snack [Chester Brown] 5p

                27) Pin-Up [Greg Irons] 1p   [on inside back cover]


Notes: Publishers & editors: Steve Bissette & Nancy O’Connor.  $9.95 for 112 pages, published in trade paperback form.  This issue is dedicated to underground artist Greg Irons.  Taboo was an ambitious attempt to expand past the 1950s EC foundations and rewrite the 1960s/1970s Warren templates for graphic horror, as well as meld the style & sensibility of the early underground horror comics with that of the more mainstream writers and artists of the 1980s.  Did it succeed?  Perhaps not completely but still better than anyone had any right to expect at the time.  By 1988, when Taboo premiered, prose horror was boiling hot.  Spurred by the enormous financial and literacy success of Stephen King, Peter Straub, Clive Barker and others, horror fiction was experiencing one of its biggest {even if short-lived} booms ever.  Yet in the comic field, where horror had been a strong seller for at least two decades, times were hard.  All of the B&W horror magazines were gone.  None of the major companies’ mystery books were still in print and the independents’ color & black and white comics were either gone or going as well.  Swamp Thing was still in print but it was in the process of being neutered by DC.  Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was still a year away from seeing its first issue.  Taboo looked much like the last stand and in some way, perhaps it was.  It was certainly an ambitious and impressive looking magazine.  Printed in trade paperback form and running 100+ pages for each issue, there was room for a number of different styles and story lengths.  Artists and writers certainly made use of that fact with stories that ranged from 1 pagers to {in future issues} 30 pages and more in length.  The quality of the stories were generally high too.  Rarely did you see filler.  For this first issue, the stories themselves tended not to be as extreme as what appeared in later issues but the quality was still quite high.  Some of the stories {the Vess effort, for one} could easily have appeared in other horror or fantasy titles but the majority here {and almost entire issues, as time went by} could probably only have only appeared in this magazine.  The proof of that is how very few of these stories have been reprinted, regardless of their quality.  To my certain knowledge, only the Vess, Burns, Brown & Campbell stories have been reprinted from this issue, and only in collections of their own works.  Best art here would be from Charles Vess on his solo tale and Mike Hoffman’s superior effort on ‘Throat Sprockets’.  The best story is Tim Lucas’ gritty and disturbing ‘Throat Sprockets’ as well.  Superior work also appeared from Chester Brown, whose ‘A Late Night Snack’ is particularly good; S. Clay Wilson; Robert Loren Fleming/Keith Giffen; Charles Burns & Bissette himself.  The Alan Moore/Bill Wray story was originally intended for the Harris revival of Creepy and was done in 1985.  A nice touch by editor Bissette was an introduction page for nearly every story that profiled the creator, gave a short essay on the story itself and provided a bibliographic entry on other work the creator or creators had produced.  A fine way to spotlight the artists and writers, give the fan something more to look for and an inexpensive way to fill pages with useful information without resorting to dreary filler material.  An impressive debut, followed by even more impressive issues.  Check out the end of the checklist for an interview with Taboo editor, Steve Bissette.


    2. cover: John Totleben/back cover: Charles Lang (1989)

                1) The Droolies [Clive Barker] 1p   [frontis]

                2) Eddie Campbell Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                3) The Pyjama Girl’s Big Night Out [Eddie Campbell] 2p

                4) Dave Marshall Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                5) Encore [Dave Marshall] 11p

                6) Tim Lucas/Simonida Perica-Uth Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p    [text article]

                7) Sweet Nothings [Tim Lucas/Simonida Perica-Uth] 16p

                8) James Robert Smith/Mike Hoffman Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                9) Wet [James Robert Smith/Mike Hoffman] 8p

                10) Rick Grimes Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                11) Hell’s Toupee [Rick Grimes] 6p

                12) Sick Animal Pin-Up [Rick Grimes] 1p   reprinted from Parade of Gore #1 (1977)

                13) Tom Marnick Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                14) Check-Out Time [Tom Marnick] 6p

                15) Saying Grace Introduction [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                16) Saying Grace [Steve Bissette] 4p

                17) Mark Askwith/Rick Taylor Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                18) Sharks [Mark Askwith/Richard G. Taylor] 7p

                19) Cara Sherman Tereno Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                20) Life With The Vampire [Cara Sherman Tereno] 25p

                21) S. Clay Wilson Profile [Tom Veitch] 2p   [text article]

                22) Black Pages [S. Clay Wilson] 4p   [pin-ups]

                23) Oh, Baby! Our Love Is Taboo [Bernie Mireault] 1p

                24) Michael Zulli Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                25) Mercy [Michael Zulli] 6p

                26) Richard Sala Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                27) Hate Mail [Richard Sala] 5p

                28) From Hell Introduction [Alan Moore] 2p   [text article]

                29) From Hell: Prologue: The Old Men On The Shore [Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell] 9p

                30) From Hell, Chapter One: The Affections Of Young Mr. S [Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell] 12p

                31) Concrete Reads Taboo [Paul Chadwick] 1p

                32) From Hell Pin-Up [Alan Moore] 1p   [on inside back cover]


Notes: $9.95 for 144 pages.  This magazine had to exist, if only to provide a home for ‘From Hell’, certainly the most impressive story/serial that Taboo would run.  And that’s saying something since Taboo ran an extremely high number of high-quality stories in its lifetime.  ‘From Hell’ gave many readers {including myself} reason to return to Taboo, even after long delays in publication might have caused attention to the title to drift.  This lack of a timely appearance, coupled with stories or artwork that were extremely offensive to some and pretty much disturbing to everybody, probably hurt the magazine more than the format or cost.  For the first installment, Moore delivers a complex and well researched Jack the Ripper story while Campbell delivers artwork both disturbing and lucid.  In addition to ‘From Hell’, Tim Lucas delivered another fine story, Mark Askwith & Rick Taylor handed us ‘Sharks’ and Michael Zulli did double duty as writer/artist on his excellent story ‘Mercy’.  S. Clay Wilson’s gory and horrific pin-up pages caused a great deal of trouble and delays when several printers declined to print the explicit images.  There were also printer troubles with the cover.  To his credit, Bissette refused to back down and eventually found a printer to run the presses for the book.   However, the controversy surrounding such events would plague Taboo for the remainder of its run. In addition, the wait between binding the pages & attaching the cover meant that a great many copies of Taboo #2 would have the problem of the cover popping loose from the binding within minutes of opening the book. 


    3. cover: Michael Zulli/frontis: Rolf Stark/back cover: Simonida Perica-Uth (1989)

1) The Maternity Ward [Jack Venooker/Steve Bissette] ½p

2) Santa Sangre Pin-Up [Moebius] 1p

3) Bernie Mireault Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

4) Poker Face [Bernie Mireault] 11p

5) Rick Veitch Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

6) A Touch Of Vinyl [Rick Veitch & Jack Weiner/Rick Veitch] 10p

7) Phil Elliott/Glenn Dakin Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

8) Vulnerable [Glenn Dakin/Phil Elliott] 3p

9) Jim Wheelock Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

10) One Good Trick [Jim Wheelock] 6p

11) Tim Lucas/Mike Hoffman Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

12) Transylvania Mon Amour [Tim Lucas/Mike Hoffman] 30p

13) Rick Grimes Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

14) Cactus Water [Rick Grimes] 10p

15) Rolf Stark /Marlene Stevens Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

16) Love In The Afternoon… [Rolf Stark & Marlene Stevens/Rolf Stark] 15p

17) From Hell, Chapter 2: A State Of Darkness [Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell] 33p

18) From Hell Pin-Up [Alan Moore] 1p   [on inside back cover]


Notes: $9.95 for 128 pages.  Bissette & O’Connor are actually listed as co-editors for the first time.  Best story is the new installment of ‘From Hell’.  Best art is Rolf Stark’s work from the haunting ‘Love In The Afternoon…’.  Good work also appeared from Rick Veitch and Bernie Mireault while Tim Lucas & Mike Hoffman gave us an excellent follow-up to #1’s ‘Throat Sprockets’.  Strong, striking issue.


    4. cover: Moebius/frontis: Nancy O’Connor/back cover: Brian Sendelbach (1990)

                1) Dreaming And The Law [Phillip Hester] 2p

                2) Phil Hester/Dave Sim Profiles [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                3) 1963 [Dave Sim] 1p   [pin-up]

                4) untitled [Charles Burn] 2p

                5) Charles Burns/Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli Profiles [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                6) Babycakes [Neil Gaiman/Michael Zulli] 4p

                7) Matt Brooker aka D’Israeli Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                8) Cholesterol [D’Israeli] 6p

                9) Mark Askwith & Rick Taylor Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                10) Davey’s Dream [Mark Askwith/Rick Taylor] 11p

                11) Moebius Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article w/photo]

                12) Alejandro Jodorowsky Profile [Steve Bissette/Moebius] 1p   [text article w/photo]

                13) Eyes Of The Cat aka Les Yeux Du Chat [Alejandro Jodorowsky/Moebius] 50p    originally

printed in France in 1978

                14) A History Of Alejandro Jodorowsky [Steve Bissette/Moebius] 2p   [text article w/photos]

                15) The Creators Of Les Yeux Du Chat Discuss The Story’s Origin, Its Execution, And Their

                                Thoughts On Today, Twelve Years Later [Jean-Marc Lofficier, Steve Bissette, Moebius

& Alejandro Jodorowsky] 4p   [text article w/photos]

                16) El Topo [Alejandro Jodorowsky/Spain Rodriguez] 4p    originally printed in Europe in 19??

                17) S. Clay Wilson Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                18) Retinal Worm [S. Clay Wilson] 5p

                19) P. Foerster Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                20) La Fugue {The Escape} [P. Foerster] 5p

                21) Tim Lucas/Steve White Profiles [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                22) Blue Angel [Tim Lucas/Steve White] 5p

                23) Charles Vess Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                24) Morrigan Tales [Elaine Lee/Charles Vess] 18p

                25) Rick Grimes Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                26) These Things Happen [Rick Grimes] 5p

                27) L. Roy Aiken/Mike Hoffman Profiles [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                28) Neither Seen Nor Heard [L. Roy Aiken/Mike Hoffman] 11p

                29) From Hell, Chapter Three: Blackmail or Mrs. Barrett [Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell] 19p

                30) From Hell Pin-Up [Alan Moore] 1p   [on inside back cover]


Notes: $14.95 for 168 pages.  Tundra Publishing is credited with co-production.  All of the Moebius pages were printed on yellow paper.  Charles Vess’ ‘Morrigan Tales’ is a redrawn, rewritten and greatly expanded version of the story originally published in Sabre #1 (Aug. 1982).  The best artwork here is easily from the French master Moebius.  Steve White, Charles Vess, Mike Hoffman & Michael Zulli also provided high quality work.   Best story is Alan Moore’s latest chapter of ‘From Hell’, with Tim Lucas, Elaine Lee, Neil Gaiman, Phil Hester and Alejandro Jodorowsky also delivering excellent stories.  I find myself really disliking the work of Rick Grimes and P. Foerster.  Their stories & art seemed like arid dead zones that blunted the appeal of the stories that book ended them. 


    5. cover: Jeff Jones/frontis: Melinda Gebbe/back cover: Michael Zulli (1991)

                1) Seeing Is Not Believing [Douglas E. Winter] 3p   [text article]

                2) Introduction [James Ellroy] 1p   [text article]

                3) 39th And Norton [Tom Foxmarnick/Dennis Ellefson] 11p

                4) Pin-Up [Jeff Nicholson] 1p

                5) Jeff Nicholson Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                6) Through The Habitrails: It’s Not Your Juice [Jeff Nicholson] 1p

                7) Through The Habitrails: Increasing the Gerbils [Jeff Nicholson] 4p

                8) Through The Habitrails: Jar Head [Jeff Nicholson] 8p

                9) Lost Girls Introduction [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                10) Lost Girls [Alan Moore/Melinda Gebbe] 8p   [color]

                11) Jeff Jones Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                12) Better Things To Do [Jeff Jones] 2p   [text story]

                13) Matt Howarth Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text story]

                14) Baby’s On Fire [Matt Howarth] 6p

                15) Rick Grimes Profile/Michael H. Price-Adrian Martinez Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text


                16) Akimbo [Rick Grimes] 6p

                17) Verse From A Viscera Vase II [Michael H. Price/Adrian Martinez] 1p   [poem]

                18) Michael Zulli/Ramsey Campbell Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                19) Again [Michael Zulli] 27p   from the story by Ramsey Campbell

                20) S. Clay Wilson Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                21) This Is Dynamite [S. Clay Wilson] 2p  

                22) From Hell Introduction [Alan Moore] 1p   [text article]

                23) From Hell, Chapter Four: “What Doth The Lord Require Of Thee?” [Alan Moore/Eddie

Campbell] 38p

                24) Dawn At The Crematorium #28 [Rolf Stark] 1p   [color painting, on inside back cover]


Notes: Steve Bissette now listed as sole editor.  $14.95 for 130 pages.  The frontispiece depicts the ‘Lost Girls’.  The focus this issue was on erotic horror stories and the reader wasn’t spared much in the way of twisted, kinky and often disgusting horror fare.  This also was a particularly strong issue in terms of story, with even the most disturbing tales being disturbing more for the quality of the story itself and not for the shocks contained within.  S. Clay Wilson’s little two pager was nearly as controversial as his earlier pin-ups from #2.  Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie uncovered the first chapter of their strikingly beautiful sex novel, ‘Lost Girls’, which depicted the grown-up escapades of literary characters Dorothy Gale {The Wizard Of Oz}, Wendy Darling {Peter Pan} and Alice Lindell {Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland & Through The Looking-Glass}, years before The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen appeared.  Although Jeff Nicolson is probably an acquired taste, the first chapters of his serial ‘Through The Habitrails’ were quirky and interesting, a trait that lasted throughout the serial.  Matt Howarth delivered a fine short story as did the team of Tom Foxmarnick and Dennis Ellefson. Another lengthy and well-done chapter of ‘From Hell’ appeared.  However, the best story and art belong to Michael Zulli’s superb adaptation of Ramsey Campbell’s damn creepy short story ‘Again’.  Don’t read this one just before dropping off to sleep.  I’d like to make special note of Rolf Stark’s back cover painting and his work in general.  Stark’s interests may have focused solely on the Holocaust but his work was powerful and, while extremely grim and disturbing, beautiful in its intentions.


Taboo Especial

    1. cover & back cover: J. K. Potter/frontis: Moebius (1991)

                1) “I’ll Have A Zombie.” A Pit Stop At Bissette’s Bar [Philip Nutman/Howard Cruse] 2p   [text


                2) Let’s Go Shopping Pin-Up [Mark Martin] 1½p

                3) Mark Martin/Eddie Campbell Profiles [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                4) Horror Story [Eddie Campbell] 1p

                5) Glenn L. Barr Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article w/photo]

                6) Cliff’s Wild Life [Glenn L. Barr] 23p

                7) Rick Grime Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                8) Glycerous Aquarium Footstool [Rick Grimes] 3p

                9) Wendy Snow-Lang Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                10) Want [Wendy Snow-Lang] 14p

                11) Through The Habitrails Introduction [Steve Bissette & Jeff Nicholson] 1p   [text article]

                12) Through The Habitrails: The Doomed One [Jeff Nicholson] 8p

                13) Rick McCollum Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                14) Fin de Salome [Rick McCollum] 14p

                15) Mark Bode Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                16) I Have A Dream [Mark Bode] 12p

                17) Scott McCloud Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                18) A Day’s Work [Scott McCloud] 25p

                19) Dick Foreman Profiles [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                20) Suburban Autopsies… [Dick Foreman/Pete Williamson] 6p

                21) Noel Tuazon Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                22) Obese Obsessor [Noel Tuazon] 8p

                23) Jussi Tuomola Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                24) Neon Spring [Jussi Tuomola] 22p

                25) Pin-Up [S. Clay Wilson] 1p

                26) ‘Want’ cover [Wendy Snow-Lang] 1p   [on inside back cover]


Notes: While this was technically a special and not a regular issue of Taboo, I’m including in the regular numbering just ‘cause I want to.  $14.95 for 152 pages.  This issue was dedicated to the then recently deceased actor Klaus Kinski while the frontispiece depicts Kinski as Jack The Ripper.  This issue came with an insert ad featuring art by Steve Bissette & Michael Zulli from which you could order Taboo #4-6 & the Taboo Especial from Tundra Publishing.  Scott McCloud’s work was the first published result of the artists’ contest to write, draw & complete a 24 page comic in 24 hours.  Best art here is Wendy Snow-Lang’s elegant effort yet, while the stories are generally good, there isn’t any I’d pick out as a superior effort.  I also like Rick McCollum’s artwork.  This is one of the milder issues of Taboo {which means it’s still probably grosser than almost any other horror comic ever published}.  ‘Neon Spring’ is printed sideways.


    6. cover: Cru Zen/frontis: Mark A. Nelson/titlepage: Steve Bissette/back cover: Mark Martin (1991)

1) Blood Monster [Neil Gaiman/Nancy O’Connor] 4p

2) Through The Habitrails Introduction [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

3) Through The Habitrails: Escape #1: “El Muerte” [Jeff Nicholson] 8p

4) Through The Habitrails: Futile Love [Jeff Nicholson] 11p

5) Charles Burns Profile [Steve Bissette] 2p   [text article]

6) The Cat Woman Returns [Charles Burns] 20p

7) Lost Girls Introduction/Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbe Profiles [Steve Bissette] 2p

8) Lost Girls, Chapters 2 &3 [Alan Moore/Melinda Gebbe] 16p   [color]

9) Rick Grimes Profile [Steve Bissette/Rick Grimes] 1p   [text article]

10) Dolly & Withtina [Rick Grimes] 6p

11) From Hell Prologue/The Nemesis of Neglect Ad [various] 1p   [text article]

12) From Hell, Chapter Five: The Nemesis Of Neglect [Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell] 40p

13) Holly Gaiman/Michael Zulli Profile [Michael Zulli & Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

14) Holly’s Story [Holly Gaiman/Michael Zulli] 6p

15) Pin-Ups [S. Clay Wilson] 2p   [2nd pin-up on inside back cover]


Notes: $14.95 for 122 pages.  Charles Burns’ disturbing ‘The Cat Woman Returns’ is a fumetti strip and was done in 1979.  Holly Gaiman, Neil Gaiman’s daughter, was 5 years old when she wrote ‘Holly’s Story’.  The latest chapter of ‘From Hell’ is the best story, although ‘Blood Monster’, ‘Lost Girls’ and ‘The Cat Woman Returns’ are also very good.  Best art is Melinda Gebbe’s beautiful, lush color work on ‘Lost Girls’ with good work also appearing from Michael Zulli, Nancy O’Connor and Eddie Campbell.  A Sweeney Todd sampler pamphlet was included with this issue.  This 16 page pamphlet provided an historical and artistic overview of the legend of Sweeney Todd, the infamous “Demon Barber Of Fleet Street” and was written by Neil Gaiman & illustrated by Michael Zulli.  As with the Taboo Especial, an insert card/ad with artwork by Steve Bissette & Michael Zulli was also included.  The Bissette art is repeated from the previous insert card but Zulli’s is a partial reprint of the Sweeney Todd pamphlet’s cover.  A special offer for pre-ordering Taboo 7 was the intended inclusion of SpiderBaby Comix #0 which was to feature Steve Bissette’s entry into the 24 pages in 24 hours contest, to be entitled ‘A Life In Black & White’.   As it turned out, that Bissette tale was included in the issue itself.  {see the Bissette interview for more details}


    7. cover: Joe Coleman/frontis & titlepage: Paul Komoda/back cover: Brian Sendelbach (1992)

                1) Phil Elliott & Paul Grist Profiles [Steve Bissette] ½p   [text article]

                2) Monsters [Phil Elliott & Paul Grist] 2p

                3) Kenneth Smith Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                4) Odradek [Kenneth Smith] 5p   from the story by Franz Kafka

                5) From Hell Prologue [various] 1p   [text article]

                6) From Hell, Chapter Six: September [Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell] 25p

                7) Joe Coleman Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                8) A Good Christian [Joe Coleman] 4p

                9) P. Foerster Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                10) The Music-Loving Spider aka L’Araignee Melomane [P. Foerster] 7p   [translated by R & J.

M. Lofficier]

                11) Jeff Nicholson Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                12) Through The Habitrails: Be Creative [Jeff Nicholson] 7p

                13) Through The Habitrails: Escape #2: The Dry Creek Bed [Jeff Nicholson] 6p

                14) Lost Girls Introduction [Steve Bissette] 3p   [text article]

                15) Lost Girls, Chapters 4 & 5 [Alan Moore/Melinda Gebbie] 16p   [color]

                16) Rick Grimes Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                17) Breathing Is For Sissies [Rick Grimes] 2p

                18) Jack Butterworth/Eric Vincent Profiles [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                19) Bad Things [Jack Butterworth/Eric Vincent] 13p

                20) Neil Gaiman/Michael Zulli Profiles [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                21) Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street: Prologue [Neil Gaiman/Michael Zulli]

26p   [story never concluded]

                22) Aidan Potts Profile [Steve Bissette] 1p   [text article]

                23) After Life [Aidan Potts] 3p

                24) SpiderBaby Comix No. O: A Life In Black And White [Steve Bissette] 26p

                25) Those Wacky Cartoonists [Steve Bissette/Matt Howarth, Jeff Nicholson, Mark Martin, Jim

Woodring & Kenneth Smith] 1p    [ad for various independent comics & mini-comics]

                26) Pin-Up [Tony Salmons] 1p   [on inside back cover]


Notes: $14.95 for 158 pages.  This was the last issue of Taboo in its original format.  Between this issue and the next, years would pass and the biggest selling points of Taboo, the serials by Alan Moore/Eddie Campbell & Neil Gaiman/Michael Zulli, would either move on to their own series or simply go uncompleted.  Only early orders had the Bissette ‘SpiderBaby Comix No. O’ included in the issue.  The ‘Sweeny Todd’ prologue is gorgeous in both story and art but the story proper never actually appeared.


    8. cover: Charles J. Lang/frontis: Moebius/back cover: Michael Zulli (1995)

                1) Introduction  [Steve Bissette] 3p   [text article]

                2) All She Does Is Eat! [Jack Butterworth/Greg Capullo] 10p

                3) Satan And The Savior [David Sexton/David Sexton & P. Craig Russell] 15p

                4) President ‘Doosh’ Quimby [Rick Grimes] 6p

                5) The Disaster Area [Tim Lucas/David Lloyd] 12p

                6) Revenge [Matt Howarth] 30p

                7) Johnny 23 [Al Columbia] 4p

                8) Through The Habitrails: Cat Lover [Jeff Nicholson] 29p

                9) Twilight [Wladyslaw Reymont/Alec Stevens] 6p

                10) Bid Return [Jeff Jones] 1p   [on inside back cover]


Notes: Now published by Kitchen Sink Press.  $14.95 for 128 pages.  These stories were left over after Taboo ceased “regular” publication in 1992.  {see the Bissette interview for more details}.  ‘Through The Habitrails’ finally concluded its run.  The best story here is ‘Satan And The Savior’ while the best artwork belongs to David Lloyd.  However I also liked the work by Nicholson, Butterworth/Capullo, Tim Lucas, & Al Columbia.   Some high quality material appears here.


    9. cover & back cover: Alan M. Clarke/frontis: Paul Komada/inside back cover: Kenneth Smith (1995)

                1) Introduction [Dave Sim] 1p   [text article]

                2) Taboo: A Chronology [various] 2p

                3) The Vampire [Alec Stevens] 6p   from the story by Jan Neruda

                4) ‘Gator Bait: The Crimes Of Joe D. Ball [Michael H. Price/Lamberto Alvarez] 12p

                5) Dr. Miro’s Masterpieces [Jeff Dickinson] 6p

                6) …In The Garden [Stephen Blue] 4p

                7) The Worms Crawl In… [Chet Williamson/Tim Truman] 13p

                8) Grue Love [Rick Grimes] 3p

                9) The New Ecology Of Death [James Roberts Smith/Mike Hoffman] 10p

                10) One Day In Hell, God Spoke [Tony Salmons] 4p

                11) After Life [Dave Thorpe/Aidan Potts] 25p

                12) The Coconut Garden [Mark David Dietz] 5p

                13) Hunting And Gathering [Phillip Hester] 5p

                14) The Joys Of Childhood [Angela Bocage] 4p

                15) Circumcision [Phillip Hester] 8p

                16) Taboo Is Taboo [Steve Bissette] 6p   [text article]   reprinted from Gauntlet (1990)

                17) From Hell [Alan Moore] 1p   [text article]   reprinted from a 1989 Fantaco Enterprises catalog


Notes: $14.95 for 128 pages.  Final issue.  Best artwork appeared from Stephen Blue & Tim Truman.  I don’t believe there’s any single great story here although there are a number of good ones.  I was impressed by the work of Phillip Hester, Aidan Potts, Chet Williamson, Alec Stevens, James Robert Smith/Mike Hoffman and Tony Salmons.  The true life story concerning serial killer Joe Ball that was chronicled in ‘Gator Bait’ was also adapted for comics in one of DC’s Paradox ‘Big Book’ titles in the late 1990s.                    




                                                A 2005 Interview with Steve Bissette!


Steve Bissette entered the comic field in 1976.  He’s appeared in Heavy Metal, Epic Illustrated, Bizarre Adventures, Scholastic Magazines’ Weird Worlds and Bananas {illustrating stories written by R. L. Stine}, collaborated with Rick Veitch on the adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s motion picture 1941 and is probably best known for his award-winning work with Alan Moore & John Totleben on DC Comics’ ‘Saga Of The Swamp Thing’ from 1983-1987, where he co-created the character of John Constantine. 


From 1988-1995, he co-founded, edited, published & co-published the controversial horror B&W magazine Taboo.  In the early 1990s he self-published his own comic Tyrant, a rigorously-researched portrait of the birth and life of a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the late Cretaceous period of North America. 


Following the 1999 publication of a final “Swamp Thing” story, authored by Neil Gaiman & co-illustrated by John Totleben, Bissette retired from the comic field and pursued his writing and work in the video industry.  His interviews, film criticism and articles have appeared in Rutherford, Gadfly, Comics Interview, The Video Watchdog, Film Threat, Animation Planet, Fangoria, GoreZone, Deep Red, Gauntlet, Ecco, Animato, Vmag, and others as well as in special edition DVD sets.  His video review column “Video Views” has been published monthly in Vmag (1998-present) and weekly (Aug. 1999-Oct. 2001) in various New England newspapers.  He is the co-author {with Stanley Wiater} of the non-fiction books Comic Book Rebels and {with Christopher Golden & Tom Sniegoski}Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Monster Book.


His short stories have appeared in Words Without Pictures (1990), Hellboy: Odd Jobs (1999), Working For The Man (2002), Sex Crimes (2003) and elsewhere.  His original novella ‘Aliens: Tribes’ won the Bram Stoker Award for best horror novella in 1992.  He continues to work as an illustrator within the book field, illustrating special edition novels, novellas and short stories. 


He has recently joined the faculty of the Center for Comics Studies in White River Junction, VT {opening in the fall of 2005}.  He is currently editing, packing, and writing for Green Mountain Cinema, a periodical dedicated to the study of Vermont films and filmmakers, and writing ‘Moving Mountains’, a book-length study of Vermont films.


Mr. Bissette lives with his wife Marjory and son Daniel in southern Vermont.


You can locate more information at his personal website; his Special Collection at Henderson State University at and at Green Mountain Cinema at


RA: Let’s talk about Taboo.  Where did the idea for Taboo come from?


SB: The idea for Taboo came from for the latter days of doing ‘Saga Of The Swamp Thing’.  John Totleben and I were frustrated over the fact that a boom period for horror was occurring, but comics seemed uninvolved in this renaissance.  From the end of the ‘70s and into the ‘80s as we were doing Swamp Thing, there were amazing horror novels coming out.  Clive Barker surfaced in England--Alan Moore was picking up the first printings, the original Sphere paperback editions, of The Books Of Blood as they came out on the stands and mailing them to us here in America.  Stephen King was doing some of his best work, as were Peter Straub and Ramsey Campbell. 


And in films, there was an evolution in the genre, with some amazing work from directors like John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, George Romero--but it wasn’t happening in comics!  The direct sale market had reinvented the comics market and here’s Bruce Jones, over at Pacific originally, then later Eclipse, doing his horror comic anthology Twisted Tales--but it was all neutered.  Anything goes in the direct market but when Bruce Jones was doing Twisted Tales, it was entirely imitative of EC’s style.  I love the EC comics but what worked in 1953, 1954 was pretty old hat by 1984. 


RA: Yeah, I liked the books but one of the frustrations in reading them was “Man!  Do something with the endings!”  Those EC style twist endings…


SB: Yeah, he was working with some of the best artists in the field—Mike Ploog, Berni Wrightson, Richard Corben.  Bruce Jones’ work in the Warren magazines remains in the top echelon of horror comics that have ever been done in any country.  Some of the work that Bruce did with Berni Wrightson and particularly the run of stories he did with Richard Corben stand as unparalleled classics in the genre, among the best horror in the comics medium.


RA: Don’t forget his work with Russ Heath.  That was pretty spectacular.


SB: Oh, yeah!  And why did those stories work?  Because Bruce Jones was writing…love stories. They’re all love stories, twisted love stories, and he was using the horror genre to push these powerful emotional wellsprings to their furthest extremes.  They are among the most beautiful stories in the medium!  They break your heart because of what would happen to the characters; Jones was getting himself [and the reader] invested in what they were doing.  And then when he had his head with Twisted Tales, when he was able to run with it as editor and writer, he just fell back into that old, tired mold of what the EC comics had set out as the template.   I love those EC comics but, again, what worked in the early 1950s was weak tea three decades later.  


RA: And it’s noticeable that those stories that did work in Twisted Tales and its companion SF anthology Alien Worlds were those stories that didn’t go the EC route.


SB: Well, the best story he ran in Twisted Tales was the one that Libertore illustrated {‘Shut-In’ from Twisted Tales #7 (Mar. 1984)} in which an old paralyzed man, a baby-sitter and an overgrown boy are involved in a weird sadomasochistic trip which is all taking place internally, it’s just the old guy’s fantasy. 


RA: Oh, that was a good story.  Just brilliant!


SB: Single most perverse story he ever ran in Twisted Tales and it worked!


RA: Yeah, it really was on the edge.  Great story, though.


SB: And the fact that it was Libertore, the guy who did Ranxerox [in Frigidaire, translated and censored for US publication in Heavy Metal], took it completely out of the EC mold that was dominating Twisted Tales.  When Pacific went under and Eclipse Comics picked it up, I knew from hard experience that it was going to be all downhill from there.  Cat Yronwode, whom I worked with a couple of times…Cat HATED horror comics.  She loathed the genre.  She abhorred horror comics.  She thought they were a baaad thing. 


RA:  Well, that’s bizarre.  She edited or was involved in some capacity in at least three different horror anthologies while she was at Eclipse and the Moore/Totleben series of Miracleman issues contained a heavy dose of horror. 


SB: I know.  That was one of the perversions of Eclipse at that time.  I was never friends with Cat or Dean {Mullaney—Publisher of Eclipse}, I mean, I liked them.  I always got along well with them but  I really butted heads with them and ended up on their shit list at the end, primarily over missing a deadline on Tim Truman’s Scout.  Cat wrote me a letter that would make you think that I had arranged a gangbanging of a child.  It was that extreme.  I still have the letter in my files somewhere [now in the Stephen Bissette collection at Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas].  Cat took it all personally.  Before that I always got on well with her, until the end, but I knew for a fact she had nothing but contempt for horror comics.


Let me go back in time a bit—when Clifford Neal’s Dr. Wirthem’s Comix  & Stories came out with my story ‘Cell Food’ in it, Cat was writing her regular column ‘Fit To Print’ for The Comic Buyer’s Guide.  Cat reviewed that issue and ‘Cell Food’ and that column was written around [the idea] that she was tearing the book up and feeding the pages to her fireplace.  It amounted to a review in which she said, and I’m paraphrasing from memory, “What kind of people can do things like this?”  It was a judgment of our humanity, or lack of it, that we chose to work in the horror genre--and that we were not fit to be in her household, either personally or through our work.  So I knew that Cat had an axe to grind with the genre as a whole.  Fine!  That’s her business.  


But once Eclipse saw that there was money to be made, they changed their tune.  I always had a problem with that because Eclipse very aggressively went after Steve Niles.  Steve was doing the Arcane Publishing venture and they basically took from his control the rights to all the Clive Barker material.


RA: Oh, right, Eclipse did ‘Tapping The Vein’, adapting Barker’s short stories into comics. 


SB: Yeah, Marvel did the Hellraiser stuff, while Eclipse’s ‘Tapping The Vein’ adapted stories from The Books Of Blood.  I remember a conversation with Dean Mullaney at that time.  Dean contacted me right after their ‘acquisition’ or ‘absorption’ or Archane, and I knew Steve Niles.  He was a friend of mine.  Steve was a very young guy at that time, 19 or 20 years old.  Arcane Publishing went under because he hired a business management team from the Washington, D.C. area, who did what business management teams do: they leached every fucking cent Steve had out of his pocket and then ditched him.  They managed him right out of business. {laughter}  So, Steve, to sustain the Arcane line worked out terms with Eclipse, and he had a real plum in his hand.  He had somehow negotiated with Clive to get the rights to key stories in The Books Of Blood.  Steve had the rights to adapt all the key stories from The Books Of Blood.  This was before most American publishers had any idea who Clive was.  Steve was right on the crest of the wave.  He had secured those rights and he and I had put a great deal of work into a planned adaptation of ‘Rawhead Rex’, to be adapted by myself and illustrated with my friend, Michael Zulli.  Michael did some stunning work for this, full-blown oil paintings.


Well, what happened was that Steve had the rights for a year to two years…it was a finite window that he had with Clive’s material.  During that period of time, he ended up working with Eclipse.  Eclipse kind of promised him an umbrella arrangement but what they did was basically push Steve out of the position of power and “acquired” the Barker material.  Steve went along with it and I’m sure he put the best face on it that he could.  But what ended up happening was that I got a call out of the blue one night from Dean Mullaney, asking me if I was interested in doing one of the Barker stories for them.  Now I was doing Taboo at that time and I said “Dean, I know what you guys have done up there with Steve and Arcane.  I mean, I’m familiar with what your publishing history, I’ve worked with you, I know what you’ve done and that you really have no affection for horror.” But for the sake of conversation, we danced around possibilities.  Dean specifically asked me what Book Of Blood story I was interested in and I cited ‘Jacqueline S’.  It’s the one about a prostitute and her lover, a good man who truly loves her.  She has the ability to change her body on a cellular level , making her the most desirable of prostitutes--she can bring the greatest pleasure to her clients.  Dean said that’s great, that they had the rights to that story.  I told him “Dean, you would not publish what I would do with that story.”  He said, “What do you mean?” I read him one of the concluding paragraphs of the story in which Jacqueline literally folds her body from the vagina, inside-out, to envelope her dead lover so that they will become one being: the ultimate consummation.  This is her way of being one with him after he’s been needlessly killed under tragic circumstances.  I said “Dean, I would draw that.”  {laughter}   He said “Well, couldn’t you just excerpt some of the text, have these blacked out shapes in the corner of the room?”   I said, “Dean, why are you adapting Clive Barker material if you’re fundamentally afraid of the material?”  The whole power of Barker, in the mid 1980s, was that he was pushing the envelope further than anyone else.  He wasn’t doing it just for gore’s sake, like Shawn Hudson would.  He was writing stories that had strong emotional contexts and substance.  The horror element brought that emotional context to a threshold in a forthright manner that hadn’t been indulged before.  He was making explicit what would traditionally remain implicit, thus reorienting completely what was possible in the genre--and he was doing it in a way that was just brilliant.   All [Dean] saw was that Clive was a name, box office, MONEY.  The Hellraiser movie was making money at the box office and they wanted a piece of the action.  And they were chickenshit.  They didn’t want to do the stories justice.


I remember a couple of years later, P. Craig Russell telling me his experience with one of the adaptations he did that Eclipse refused to publish.  He showed me just a couple of pages, photocopies, and it was brilliant, just brilliant what he had done!  They didn’t get that either.  They were just afraid of the material.  That was, of course, the point, [that the material should be frightening].


RA: That’s odd, since Russell has the ability to make the most heinous things look ok in the context of the story that he’s doing, simply because his art is so beautiful. 


SB: It was a story about a man who lives in fast motion.  He realizes he can consummate his sexual desires with anyone he wants to before they even realize what’s happened to them.  It had a very aggressive gay component, as many of Clive’s best stories did, and [Craig] really brought that to the fore.  He did a brilliant graphic adaptation of the story; based on just the few, two or three pages, that I saw photocopies of, it was a classic, really potent and ravishing work.  And it scared Eclipse.


Don’t forget, I wrote the lead story for Eclipse’s first issue of Tales Of Terror {which replace Bruce Jones’ Twisted Tales}.  I had done a couple of pieces for Eclipse.  The one I’m fondest of is ‘Remembering Renee’, which David Lloyd illustrated.  I remember Cat calling me one night, saying they loved ‘Remembering Renee’.  It was a love story, a reflection of my own state of mind at that time as my first marriage was dissolving.  I took a card from Bruce Jones’ Warren deck, if you will.  Well, Cat loved the story and she told me “Steve, you’re going to be so happy.  We chose your story as the cover story.”  I said “Aw, that’s great.  What’s the cover look like?”  She told me.  I wasn’t pleased, and said “Cat, that’s the end of my story!  You put the end of my story on the cover of your magazine!”  She couldn’t understand what I was objecting to.  I said “Well, Cat, it’s a three or four page story.  I’ve only got one ending and you’ve blown it.  The whole point of the story is that the guy doesn’t know his dead wife’s is really still with him, and you’re putting the revelatory moment on the cover.”  Cat just didn’t get it.  Dean didn’t get it.  In the most fundamental way, they didn’t get horror.  I used to pitch stories to Cat and, if they bothered her, she’d reject them.  {laughter} 


RA: But that’s the best kind of horror story!  The kind that gives you the creeps hours, days, years after you’ve read them.  Not the gore stories but the ones that unsettle you in ways that may take you years to figure out exactly why.


SB: Well, of course.  Anyway, that’s my roundabout way of telling you where Taboo came from.  Out of all that frustration.  Because of Swamp Thing, every publisher was hitting up John Totleben and I to do horror stories for them.  We were in demand.  We had won awards for four years in a row for Swamp Thing and every publisher out there was making calls and overtures to us.   Yet they’d send us wretched scripts, or whenever we’d hit them with something we wanted to do, if it scared them or freaked them out, they’d say “no, you’re going too far”.  Well, we’d go, “what’s the fucking point?”  Is there going to be a second act after Swamp Thing?  That’s were Taboo came from. 


Then Dave Sim approached John and I at one of the Mid-Ohio Conventions--we always went to the Mid-Ohio cons every November--and offered us carte blanche to finance and publish anything we wanted to do, a budget and publishing venue for our own pet project.  That was during Dave’s experiment with Aardvark-One International.  Steve Murphy and Michael Zulli’s Puma Blues came out of that period, as did Taboo.  John and I said we wanted to do Taboo, although we didn’t have a name at that point.  We were calling it “The October Project” for a time.  My friend Mark Askwith, who lived in Toronto, Canada, suggested Taboo as the perfect title, and John and I went “Yeah, that’s it.”  Thank you, Mark.


Taboo was going to provide a venue for everything that no one else in comics would touch.  We had a manifesto, the Taboo Manifesto, which stated our intent, and specified that we wanted only the material “that disturbs you.  If what you come up with doesn’t disturb or frighten or scare you in any way we not even interested in looking at it.  We want the deepest, darkest stuff we can come up with.  We want you to—to paraphrase David Cronenberg—‘to speak the unspeakable and show the unshowable’.”  We wanted it to be able to go off the deep end by its very nature—an anthology in which anything goes.  We really wanted to put between two covers, issue by issue, the cutting edge genre material.  We wanted to smash the EC formula, that codified template. 


RA: Geez.  That’s almost exactly what I wrote down in my notes for #1!  The template stuff that primarily EC--and to some extent--Warren developed. 


SB:  Well, it was said and done with great love and respect. We loved what EC had done, because they had done the same thing we were setting out to do when they started out.  They had broken every template that existed before them, and we knew that had to be done for the 1990s.  We had to see in comics the same disruption and eruption that was revitalizing horror novels, horror short stories, horror film, the genre’s permutations in music, in every other media.  We were seeing this renaissance, this revolution, but we weren’t seeing it in comics.  Taboo was going to be the venue for that.


RA: What happened to Dave Sim in publishing the book?  He seemed to have vanished before the first issue had even come out.


SB:  Well, Dave pulled out before #1 of Taboo and that is an amazing story.  In the parameters of the comics industry, Dave was more generous to me in comics than anyone else has been since Joe Kubert.  Joe Kubert was my first mentor, and Dave Sim was my second.  When I came out of my years of working with DC on Swamp Thing, I was just destroyed.  I mean, I had no sense of ethics left.  I had been so reamed on a personal and business level by DC that I literally didn’t know up from down, left from right, for a number of months.  It was such a disorienting and demeaning and degrading experience at the end that I ceased to enjoy drawing.  It just disgusted me. 


Dave really opened my eyes and the eyes of many of my friends as to what was possible.  That we could make a living as cartoonists, but that we did not necessarily have to prostitute ourselves to the highest bidder.  That it was possible to carve out your own body of work, to own it and build and maintain a real autonomy.  Dave is the first person ever {at a Mid-Ohio Con} to say to John and I, “Dude, you guys deserve to ride in a limousine.” {laughs} And silly as that sounds now, we’d never had that.  Every time we got called into New York on a business meeting with DC, we paid our own way {Marvel would always reimburse you}.  We rode a train or a bus.  We crashed on a friend’s floor in the city.  All of the time we were working on Swamp Thing, there were no perks in it for us  from our publisher, and we were living like paupers. 


Dave said “This isn’t right.  You guys are winning awards for the company.  You’ve turned this character around from nothing to one of their key titles and you’re not reaping any of the benefits.”


Now, it’s not just about the material levels.  That’s not all it was about.  He was really trying to impress on us that we could strike out on our own path, creatively.  We could go our own way and have a real chance of making it work.  And at that time, in the direct sales market, it was absolutely true.  Dave was incredibly disappointed when he made the offer to us and we came back with this “We want to do an anthology title”.  Dave was hoping we would do our own work.  In the best of all worlds, I would have done ‘Tyrant’ at that time.  But I wasn’t mature enough.  I wasn’t thinking of it at that time. 


But Dave supported Taboo every step of the way.  He was a very generous benefactor.  He bankrolled the entire first issue and much of the second.  We had the full support of Aardvark Vanaheim and Aardvark-One International’s offices and contacts with printing houses.  Karen McKiel was the secretary and bookkeeper up there at the time, and between her and Gerhard I really was taught the ropes of how the comics business works.  Karen was instrumental in much of this learning curve, by the way, in  terms of the nuts-and-bolts organizing of bookkeeping, etc.  By the time I was done with that crash course and my first wife Nancy {who soon after this changed her name to Marlene} and I got out Taboo #1 & #2, I had gotten a fully rounded education in comics.  I had worked every side of the bench.  There were no more mysteries for me after that.  No publisher could pull the wool over my eyes after that.  Because I know how it works.  There’s no magic to the business of comics.  It’s just a business.


What happened to Dave is—everybody forgets this now—Dave reinvented the graphic novel.  He is the great hero of the graphic novel form.  Prior to the first Cerebus ‘phonebook’ edition—the expansive 500 page format--the largest graphic publication that any distributor would handle was a square bound book, that was about 100 pages, maybe a little more than that.  This was before ‘The Dark Knight Returns’, mind you.


[Addendum: I recently found and filed the 1986 paperwork relevant to this period for my collection of papers at Henderson State University; there is no date on the document itself, but it was included with material from Aardvark-One International and Aardvark-Vanaheim, Inc. dated late 1986.  It’s interesting to note in a comparative cost breakdown Dave had Karen McKeil send my first wife Nancy and I at the time, Swords Of Cerebus, Vol. 5 from 1983 was 104 pages and cost $1.51 per unit for a print run of 10,000; CHURCH AND STATE, Vol. 1 was 592 pages, at a cost span of $3.41 per unit {for 3000 copies} to $2.32 each {for 12,000 copies}.  If anyone is interested, this document is now in the Stephen Bissette Special Collection files, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas.]


RA: Usually it was considerably less, about 64 pages on average.  Basically an expensive annual.


SB: You got it, man.  Everybody forgets, but I remember the chronology very clearly.  Dave broke the glass ceiling and the first major book to come out after he did that was ‘The Dark Knight Returns’, collecting all four volumes of the series into one book.  Dave’s the one who not only went out on the point but he fought all the battles with the distributors that broke that glass ceiling.  And because he was a self publisher, those battles were ugly, very personalized, as I recall.  The way it blew up in Dave’s face, it brought down Aardvark-One International, the spin-off of his own self publishing venture. 


Diamond was pissed at Dave for putting out the first Cerebus ‘phonebook’.  It wasn’t just Diamond, it was all the distributors, ‘cause there were a lot of them at the time, and most of the retailers.  As I remember it, Dave had proposed the format to distribution, and they refused to carry the book—they decided “no, this is too expensive.”.  Dave said, “Look, I’m putting out the first Cerebus collection.  It’s going to run 500 pages and that’s how I’m going to collect the series.”  And Dave was looking far enough ahead, fifteen years down the road, that he knew that when he got to Cerebus #300, that 64 page collections weren’t going to work to present Cerebus as the novel or series of novels that it was.  He had to go with this more expensive format.  He also said “Look, those little graphic novels you’re putting out from Marvel.  Those aren’t novels.”  They were short stories, a minor inflation of the ‘Giant Annual’ format.  The density of content, a richness and depth of material, is what distinguishes a novel from a short story.  A novel needs a larger canvas to exist on or it wasn’t going to breathe.  We weren’t going to see the graphic novel realize its potential [in the format that existed for it at that time].  So step one--Dave announces he’s going to do the first 500 pages of a Cerebus collection.  Step two—everyone ridicules him.  Step three—the business people involved, the distributors and most of the retailers, say we don’t want it.  You can’t do it.  Step four—Dave, being a self publisher, with a printer, who owns all his own material, and has a subscription list and via Cerebus monthly a means of advertising directly to his readers, says you can’t tell me what I can or can’t do.  If you don’t want it, I will advertise it in Cerebus and I will sell it directly to the individual buyer and it will cost $25.00.  The first ad came out in Cerebus saying the first collection will be $25.00 postpaid and can be paid to this 800 number.  He sat up a corporate number and account at Aaadvark Vanaheim for this new venture.  It was an incredible windfall of income, too, sans the discounts to the middle-men who’d opted out.  It was also the first 500 page format graphic novel.  It had real weight, heft, an expansive read.  Amazing.


The backlash against Dave was unbelievable.  I was up in Kitchner at that time, visiting Dave.  I used to go up there every year and spend a couple of days to a week with Dave and Gerhard.  And if you were visiting Dave and Gerhard, you were drawing the same time as they were drawing.  I’d bring up my work with me.  And I remember Dave and I went out for dinner one night, and then went over to the local comic retailer in Kitchner, a very sweet guy who had been Dave’s first supporter.  While we were there, a young couple, a man and a woman, were there dropping off books from a distributor.  An idle backhand verbal swipe from one of them provoked Dave, and he responded in kind.  It got ugly, fast.  They got into such a violent argument with Dave that they were cursing him from a block away.  At the top of their lungs. {chuckles}  It was amazing to me.  If I hadn’t seen it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it.  The anger that was suddenly being directed at Dave Sim, purely over a business decision he had made—it was as if he had betrayed everyone in the business.  Mind you, this was well before the whole “Reads” gender issue backlash.  This was all over Dave doing his own thing, his own way.


Dave was having a hard time coping with all this.  He was not going to sway from his decision.  Dave is nothing if not an absolutist.  He makes a decision.  He decides which way he’s going and then he’s going that way and nothing is going to stop him.  But it was getting really painful for him, personally.  I remember Dave calling me up drunk in the middle of the night.  He was still a drinker at that time.  At two or three in the morning and just ramble and rant, though it was all focused—all on the key issue of distribution.  He just had to vent and I was one of the people he trusted enough to call.  I remember him saying “Steve, repeat after me!  A distributor is just a functionary.”  {laughs}  I didn’t really understand what he was talking about at this time.  I hadn’t learned the ropes yet.  In due time, I learned.


Well, Dave put out that first Cerebus book and the sales were tremendous.  He sold out the first print run very quickly, sans middle-men taking a cut; a great success.  Nothing changes a group of merchants’ minds quicker than when they see success that they opted out of.  Suddenly they all wanted on board.  The distributors all wanted to kiss and make up.  They wanted the second printing of the book.  The retailers wanted it and Dave just went NO.  I’m going to continue selling it this way. 


RA: If he was selling out his printings, he was probably going to make more money that way anyway.


SB: Well, there was that factor—a hefty percentage of any publication is absorbed in distribution and retailer percentages, where self-publishers are selling their publications at 60% off—but it wasn’t that Dave was being a prick, trying to shut them out.  It’s that Dave’s an absolutist.  You make a decision and you have to live with it.  Dave makes a decision, he has to live with it.   They had made their decision.  He made his.  He was just standing his ground.  Still, to this day, I admire him.  He went against every fiber of the business.  He went against tremendous ridicule and ire.  He stood his ground.  He proved he was right and he changed everything about how comics and graphic novels are published.  And the first company to jump on board was DC Comics with that Dark Knight collection.  That was a new creature, when it came out.  Everybody today forgets that it was Dave who broke that glass ceiling but he was the man and I was there.  I saw a lot of it first and second hand and my learning curve in the business was, in part, from that experience.  I saw the best and the worst of it. 


So, how did Diamond retaliate?  How did they punish Dave Sim?  They refused to carry ‘Puma Blues’.  ‘Puma Blues’ was an independent comic that was coming out from Aardvark-One International with Michael Zulli as the artist and Steve Murphy as the writer.  They were the first two individuals to take Dave up on his offer to back creative talent to publish anything the talent wanted to do.  John Totleben and I saw in person Dave make that same offer to a number of other people, including Bill Sienkiewicz, Frank Miller…I mean Dave was extending that offer to many key people in comics at that time.  Because he wanted to see everyone in the medium whose work mattered to him have the opportunity to extract themselves out of that servitude to the plantation mentality of working for Marvel and DC.  He saw how we were treated.  He knew we were getting the short end of the stick.  He wanted to bring us all along—not with him, not to follow Dave or Dave’s example, but he just wanted us to have the opportunity to stretch our wings and do what we were capable of.  Fortunately, a few of us could see the door he was opening for us. 


So, Diamond refuses to distribute ‘Puma Blues’.  They’re mad at Dave Sim.  They see Dave as the publisher of ‘Puma Blues’ and they punish Steve Murphy and Michael Zulli [because Diamond] is angry at Dave Sim for not allowing them to have the distribution rights to the 500 page Cerebus collection that they hadn’t wanted in the first place!  It’s a bit like 9/11, you know: Saudi terrorists fly planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and we attack Afghanistan and Iraq.  You hit me, so I hit him, even though he didn’t have anything to do with it.  So, Diamond wants to get back at Dave , they lash out at an expendable title, and in doing so ‘get’ Steve and Michael.  You can see how perverse this was.  Steve and Michael were only living on what ‘Puma Blues’ earned.  It was not a top selling comic.  It was scraping by, a very modest success.  Its numbers never got very high, but they were high enough to continue doing it.  When Diamond retaliated in that manner, Dave, being the ethical man he is, looked at the situation and said this isn’t working.  Everyone perceived him as the publisher and, in doing so, it had created the worst case scenario that Dave could have imagined.  To punish Dave Sim--publisher, Diamond Comics—distributor, is vindictively taking the food out of the mouths of a writer and an artist who had nothing to do with Cerebus or Dave Sim’s involvement in Cerebus.  It was an unfair situation.  It was a perverse turn of events and it was an absolute abuse of power on Diamond’s part.  It wasn’t hurting Dave financially.  Dave got nothing out of ‘Puma Blues’.  And no one understood that Dave’s contract with Steve & Michael was the same contract he had with John and I, which was no contract at all.  Dave wasn’t getting any share of income from these ventures.  He was, in fact, footing the bills for much of the production and making the distribution happen.  He was implementing these projects.  So, during this debacle, Dave came to an ethical decision that he had to dissolve Aardvark-One International.  He couldn’t be a publisher.  If the comics market perceived him as a publisher who was fair and equitable, then to punish Dave by taking it out on the people he was extending this carte blanche to was unfair.  He extended this invitation to creators whose work he valued, but his involvement distorted the intent of the venture, displaced the creators and placed a perception of propriety over that published work onto Dave: that is, in Diamond’s mercantile view, since Dave published ‘Puma Blues’, ‘Puma Blues’ was ‘his’ book.  The notion of his involvement—the presumption of what a publisher was—was inherently undermining Aardvark-One.  It just wasn’t working.  He had gotten it wrong somehow. 


So Dave quietly dissolved Aardvark-One International.  He did so very ethically.  He was very fair.  He was very conscientious.  He maintained our support until we were off the diving board and on our way.  We were not just kicked off the diving board.  But Dave made it clear that when Taboo #1 was ready to go we would be self-publishing.  We would not have the umbrella of Aardvark-One International.  But right up to publication day, we still had the help of Karen, of Dave and of Gerhard.  He never pushed away the life-preserver until we were ready to swim.  It was one of the greatest opportunities I was ever given in my life and it was one of the greatest lessons I ever learned as well.  Dave was just an incredibly upstanding professional through the whole thing and a great friend. 


People forget what happened back then.  ‘Puma Blues’ got within three issues of concluding and Steve Murphy pulled out.  There was more lucrative work available at ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and, much to Michael Zulli’s frustration, they postponed completing ‘Puma Blues’, which was too bad.  Here we are, 15 years later, and it’s never going to be concluded and they were that close to their completion.  The whole Diamond debacle was a very public event at the time.  There was a ‘Puma Blues’ benefit issue that a number of us contributed to.  There was an Alan Moore story that I penciled and Michael Zulli inked.  I also inked Michael Zulli’s pencils on a story that Steve Murphy wrote.  The benefit book was to try to raise money to offset their financial losses from that period of time and it was three or four months where their income suddenly dried up because Diamond punished them. 


RA: I’ve a copy of the benefit book and it came out at almost the same time as Taboo #1.  Perhaps a month or so earlier.  Also about the same time AAARGH! came out from Alan Moore’s company Mad Love.


SB: You got it, exactly.  AAARGH! is what came out of Dave Sim’s trying to convince Alan that he could self publish.  But that {and Taboo} lead to the key lesson that if you were going to self publish, the only viable way is to write and draw your own material.  If you’re publishing the work of others, as in AAARGH! And Taboo, you’re not SELF-publishing, you are publishing, and there is a world of difference.  Stupid us!  Alan was put…well, I’ve already gotten into plenty of trouble over this with my Comics Journal interview.  If you’re a writer who needs an artist, you’re suddenly an employer.  There’s no way around it.  Especially if you’re the one who is the publisher.  Some writers NEED publishers.  Period.  I’ll leave it at that.


RA: Back to Taboo, as I recall there seemed to be a awful lot of problems over censorship or lack of distribution or printers not wanting to print the book , beginning with #2.  I believe there was some sort of trouble over the pin-ups that S. Clay Wilson did for that issue.  I was looking at them the other day and thinking to myself, they are pretty grotesque.


SB: Yeah, they’re off the deep end!  I’ve got to say that the distributors we worked with were always supportive.  I never had major problems with distributors.  The only speed bump I hit with distributors was one period where Capitol and Diamond both contacted me and asked about putting Taboo in their adult catalog.  Now, bare in mind, that the only books in those adult catalogs at that time were titles like ‘Cherry Poptart’ or the beginnings of the Eros line from Fantagraphics, and I objected because Taboo wasn’t a sex comic and if that’s the context they were going to place it in, than we’re going to lose what few sales we’d sustained, as Taboo wasn’t a sexually-oriented publication.  But it never got confrontational.  They ultimately kept Taboo listed in their main catalog.  Of course, I had a lot of big guns to bring to bear.  In every issue we had Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell, Moebius in #4—I mean I really had a lot of top draw commercial cartoonists that Diamond and Capitol wanted to have out there.   I also sent them a copy of…it wasn’t a Hellraiser comic, but something that Marvel Epic Comics had spun off from the Barker books…and it had a sequence where these demons are standing underneath a hung man, collecting his semen that was running down his leg.  {laughter}  And I said, “Look, if this can fly in your regular catalog, then Taboo is fine in your regular catalog because I’ve never published any image quite as graphic as this.”


RA: Yeah, I remember writing a letter to DC after they objected to the Rick Veitch/Michael Zulli Swamp Thing issue, which was pulled from publication, because Veitch and Zulli had Jesus crucified on the wood of Swamp Thing.  Swamp Thing was the actual cross.  I reminded them that they had just run an issue of Green Lantern/Green Arrow or maybe just Green Arrow when they had Black Canary or someone raped and beaten and hung up on a cross.  Images and storylines which were, or at least should be, far more offensive, especially to Christians, than the idea that Jesus would be nailed to a plant elemental. 


SB: It was a crazy time in publishing.  They were all publishing material that was pushing the envelope [of what was acceptable] yet they were all afraid of where it was going to go.  Don’t forget the Oklahoma bust was right around that time.  It wasn’t as dangerous a time as right now.  I don’t think I would publish a book like Taboo right now, not because I’m afraid of the material but because I don’t think it would be responsible for me to put retailers on that spot or firing line right now.


RA: Sad but probably true.


SB: The mid 1990s were a strange time.  My point is we never had problems with the distributors on Taboo.  We got a lot of support from distributors.  I had problems with printers.  Preney Print & Litho, who printed Cerebus, was a tremendous printer.  They printed Taboo #1 & 3 and I went to them with Tyrant.  They had to back away from Taboo because they had a problem.  There was an episode in Canada where they had wrapped a community print job of some kind in remainder pages from Yummy Fur, Chester Brown’s book.  {laughter} It’s kind of funny in hindsight but it was very unfortunate at the time.  Kim Preney called me and said, “Steve, we can’t handle Taboo #2.”  I said “ok, I understood the situation, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do but I hope you’ll continue working with me.”  He said “Oh, yeah, we don’t want to lose you or your account. We believe in what you’re doing.”


Anyway the Chester Brown Yummy Fur sequences were showing a nude female with her throat cut and a guy bathing in her blood and she comes back as a ghost.  It was a nude, pre-adolescent looking girl and it was a very objectionable sequence and this is what was used to wrap some community print job!  {more laughter}  It created a incredible furor in Preney’s local community and he had to back away from anything that was going to bring more fire down on them. Taboo #2 would have certainly done that. 


RA: They should have been wrapped in Chester Brown’s adaptation of Jesus’ life. {laughter} 


SB: Yeah, exactly, but he wasn’t doing that yet in Yummy Fur.  That came a little later.  So I went with a local printer, a Vermont printer.  I thought, let me support local businesses.  It was the biggest mistake I ever made as a publisher.  It cost me an arm and a leg!  The printer I worked with, Green Mountain Press—who are no longer in business, the owner I worked with passed away some time ago--was very supportive.  We showed him all the material.  He said, “Look, this is America.  You have a right to publish what you want.  We support the First Amendment.”  But what happened was suddenly we couldn’t get color separators to do work.  We couldn’t get production houses to do work.  It wasn’t just S. Clay Wilson’s material.  The various production houses weren’t seeing the entire book.  We had a local production shop that I worked with very amicably on Tyrant years later.  We needed a transparency shot on John Totleben’s cover, which had a sort of piranha-faced humanoid creature pulling its belly open and all its infant krill spilling out: a perverse birth.  An amphibious reproduction process being displayed.  The printer whom I went to get the transparency shot thought this was an objectionable image.  He was very polite but he declined [to do the transparency].  That was interesting because among the work he had shown me when we first contacted him about doing the job were gun catalogs.  He said he was a member of the church community there and he couldn’t handle the Taboo 2 cover.  I replied that I wasn’t trying to be rude but to please explain to me how it’s objectionable to photograph a transparency of this entirely imaginary creature, doing something that no human being could ever do, but it’s ok to print and distribute gun catalogs?  He didn’t want to get into that argument, of course.  They never do. 


RA: Gun catalogs bring in a lot of money.  Imaginary fish that are reproducing probably don’t.


SB: I’m not necessarily against the NRA, but guns can actually kill people and Taboo #2 is never going to kill anybody.  The binding’s not strong enough!  {laughter}


RA: That’s something else I was going to ask you about.  The cover and contents to #2 separate very easily.


SB: Well, that’s the end of the story here.  We struggled every step of the way, to make a long story short.  We had another separation house object to printing the Alan Moore inside-back-cover painting.  It had a pentagram and they thought it was satanic and that we were Satanists.  We got through all that, at the cost of much time and money.  Once we got all the separations done, and finally got the book printed, we could not find a binder to do the binding.  Green Mountain Press’s usual bindery refused, due to content.  We eventually had to pay two to three thousand dollars extra to ship the [bound pages and cover sheets] on palettes down to a bindery in the Boston area, who agree to take on the job.  But the binding we ended up getting was like a tablet binding, but it was all we could get.  At the time, we were just thankful to have a binder because we had standing orders from Diamond, which are automatically cancelled if a certain amount of time passes.  Diamond worked with us, as did Capitol.  We explained to them and showed them the paperwork and the copies of the letters that we were getting from binderies.  We were getting letters from binderies basically saying we were evil people.  It really is a snapshot of where America [was going and] has gone today.  We finally went with the one binder who said yes and they did not do a particularly good job.  But to be fair, most binders prefer to be working with the book as the signatures come off the press and are put together.  So it may be the quality of the binding for that issue was caused in part by the fact that those signature pages were sitting in a warehouse for literally weeks.


RA: The pages themselves hold together.  It’s the cover that flops off.  I’ve never seen one that wasn’t loose.


SB: Yeah, I know.  Taboo was always an uphill battle.  It was always a difficult project.  I really stuck with it.  I mean, I was tenacious.  It just was a project that was not viable.  We were banned in almost every country in the world at one point or another.  The best review I ever got was from the New Zealand Board Of Censors.  Taboo was seized in a shipment that included ‘Cherry Poptart’ and some of the other erotic stuff--and we passed with flying colors.  They basically cleared us for adult readership and praised the book, saying that the work was of the highest quality.  The censorship board stressed in their write-up that it was the individual introduction that provided the full context for the materials being presented. 


Which was something I believed from the start: I felt the introductions were critical, that they provided necessary context, lent weight to the entire project.  My model was Dangerous Visions.  I felt the introductions were necessary because I wanted every reader to have some sort of context to bring to the story.  Whether it was an understanding of the artist or writer’s work or of the historical context that the story existed within or what have you.  That came out of my years of reading science fiction.  Alan Moore had reminded me of the important work Michael Moorcock had done as an editor [on New Worlds] over in England and I revisited the work Harlan Ellison did with Dangerous Visions, where the introductions totally enriched the entire reading experience. 


RA: One of the things I really liked about Taboo, at least relating to issues 1-7, was the artist/writer profiles that helped point out where you could find other stuff by these guys.  If you liked their stories, what they’d done in Taboo, you certainly might like to read or see more. 


SB: Exactly.  My goal with Taboo was to help the reader ferret out anything of interest that a story might spark them to go read.  I also felt it important for the creators who were contributing work to Taboo that they should benefit, if only via sales of more lucrative published or self-published work.  People should be able to go out and find their work if they liked what they read in Taboo.  I also felt that it was important to make it clear that Taboo existed in a much broader context in comics history and in the genre.  That this was just a ripple in the stream, so to speak.  Those introductions, those bibliographies, were all part of that. 


Case in point, back [when I was working on Marvel’s Dracula issue of Bizarre Adventures, #33] and doing the story ‘The Blood Bequest’ with Steve Perry--if you look at the credits page, there’s a double-page splash where the story’s title’s presented.  There is a credits scroll there with a big white empty space in the middle.  That was because we had acknowledged that we were working in part from the story ‘That Dracula May Live’ by Marv Wolfman & Neal Adams.  That acknowledgement was lettered where the white space was.  Marvel was angry at that point with Marv Wolfman and Neal Adams and they whited out their names from that credits scroll.  We objected.  I remember Denny O’Neil holding this water pistol to his head and mocking pulling the trigger.  {laughter}  Denny said he understood but there was nothing he could do.  That made a huge impression on me.  I thought this was ridiculous.  Marvel refuses to credit a story that they published and that they owned that we’re using material from.  After that, it became really important to me, whenever I had control over it, to fully acknowledge the work of the people I was working with, that I had borrowed from, that I had drawn anything from, etc. and that really came together in that additional text material in Taboo.  I wanted it to be the richest reading experience that I could muster. 


I did the same thing three years later in Tyrant.  The first footnotes I ever saw in comics were dealing with Tim Truman’s work on his book on Simon Girty, Wilderness. 


RA: Oh, that’s an excellent book.  One of my favorites. 


SB: A tremendous book.  Tim was the first cartoonist I ever recall {and if someone has another example I welcome it} doing a historically based graphic novel where he footnoted the material—though maybe Jack Jackson {Jaxon} was there first with Comanche Moon.  Sorry if I’m wrong on this.  Without having the books at hand, though, I think Tim was first to really get intensive with the details, do up proper footnotes, listed what he worked from, where he got his information., where he deviated from the records, where he had to invent because there were no records—all of which incredibly enriched the novel.  I convinced Alan Moore to footnote ‘From Hell’.  We could never find a way to do it in the context of Taboo but I was very happy when they started doing the collected From Hell books that Alan went with the footnotes.  It was initially proposed to respond to some of Alan’s harshest critics, who claimed he was plagiarizing material.  Footnotes seemed the most succinct method of countering those unfair accusations.


RA: The appendixes in From Hell had some of the best stuff in those issues.  Well, maybe not the best stuff because I think the story itself is one of Moore’s best works but those appendixes were extremely interesting.


SB: It was and it was crucial to the work.  Also, to this day, Chester Brown’s ‘Riel’ has footnotes that are just tremendous.  I’m an addict for research and information.  Part of it’s just that but part of it is that I want to have that access to information after I’ve done or read a work of fiction or narrative fiction. 


RA: It certainly wasn’t as extensive as your work on Tryant or Truman, Moore or Brown’s footnotes, but I believe that Harvey Kurtzman credited or acknowledged the historical books of Fletcher Platt when he was working on his Civil War Tales that appeared in Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat back in the EC days. 


SB: Certainly, but they’d be on the letters’ page, [not in a special section or on the page itself].  I’d love to

have annotations for the complete Two-Fisted war stories.  [Anyway, the reason I suggested footnotes] to

Alan was that a certain British writer, whom I won’t name because I’m not sure I’m recalling the name

correctly, who was quite outspoken, in the UK fan press anyway, that Alan was stealing From Hell from some

literary source.  Alan was not happy about this.  He wasn’t distraught but he wasn’t happy so I said “Alan,

why don’t you just footnote?” I knew how rigorous the research they were doing was.  I was privy to the

exchanges between Eddie Campbell and Alan.  Whenever one sent a postcard or letter [to each other], they

would send me a photocopy of it.  Eddie was catching Alan in certain errors in that would be corrected before

they got to the final art stage. 


I famously remember this great postcard Eddie did of Gull and Netley on the coach suspended above the

Thames in midair because Eddie found out that there was no bridge at the point that Alan had specified a

bridge in his script.  They were doing their research on this project in every way, shape or form.  When they

couldn’t find out anything they’d contact me, if it had anything to do with American sources {specifically, the

identity of the ‘wild west show’ touring London at the time, which I uncovered for them} or Alan would go to

his circle of friends and associates and find someone who could find out something.   I just suggested to Alan

that the best way to counter this criticism was to footnote the story.  Of course you’re working from pre-

existing material.  You’re researching Jack The Ripper.  It occurred in the 1880s.  How could you not be?


RA:  It’s probably the most written about murder in history, with the possible exception of Jesus Christ’s.  It’s

simply not possible to write something about that murder without referencing somebody.


SB: Exactly.  What was being said was absurd, but it was being presented in the fan press as an attack on

Alan.  The best way to counter it seemed to be the footnotes.  When I did Tyrant, I’d have been a fool if I had

not done reading and research on dinosaurs. 


RA: If you didn’t, you’d end up looking like an idiot.  Somebody would certainly call you out on it. 


SB: Well, of course.  From day one on Tyrant, I made it a point not just to footnote but to engage my readers

with all the text pages.  I wanted them engaged.  I also wanted [to get] corrections from readers.  This was to

be a learning experience for me and I engaged with it on that level.  The footnotes on From Hell and my

introductions and bibliographies on Taboo came from very much from that same spirit.  I wanted to engage

the reader, YOU, fully.  Not just the experience of reading an issue of Taboo but the soup that Taboo existed

within.  By all the creators.  Look at all the wonderful stuff that they’ve done!  Go buy it!  Go read it!  It’s

great stuff!


RA: Well, it worked, at least for me.  I remember buying a lot of stuff based on those bibliographic notes and intros.


SB: Good! 


RA: Then Tundra came in as a publishing partner or backing publisher…


SB: Taboo #4 was well underway, and almost completely done, when Tundra came into existence.  We

completed all the production on Taboo #4  with Tundra.  The physical production was done with my friend

Norm Kranpetz, who, unfortunately, passed away a number of years ago.  Norm was a great friend and a

tremendous artist who rolled up his sleeves to do the paste-ups and mechanicals for the introduction text

pages, beginning with Taboo #1.  Now, Taboo #4 was the issue that we had ‘Eyes Of The Cat’ {see the index

above} with the interviews with Jean Giraud  {Moebius} & Alex Jodorowsky, and we provided extensive

examples of artwork from any story that was referred to in those interviews.  Norm did all that work and did

a wonderful job.


Tundra rescued me on the printing end.  I could not find a printer for Taboo #4.  They rescued me on that,

which became the catalyst for working with Tundra and co-publishing Taboo 5-7 and Taboo Especial with

them.  It was a rocky relationship.  Tundra was a great idea and a very noble experiment  but it was fraught

with peril from day one.  I’ve gone through those problems at length elsewhere {see the famous Comics

Journal interview}.  We needn’t go into that unless you have specific questions.


RA: Not really.  I’d like to stick to the book itself.


SB: I really was left alone to shape Taboo in the manner  I wanted to shape it.  There were two major

frustrations for me with Tundra.  First, one of the difficulties of doing an anthology book was that you’re

often subsidizing other artists’ work and you don’t know when it is going to arrive.  Some creative people are

a dream with this stuff.  Jeff Nicolson remains to this day one of the most professional cartoonists I’ve ever

dealt with.  Jeff understood 100%, because he had self-published for so long  with Ultra-Klutz, the

opportunity that Taboo presented him through [his serial] Through The Habitrails.   He never missed his own

self-imposed deadline.  I didn’t set deadlines for the artists.  They did.   Jeff was always ahead of his own

schedule.  The work always came in when he said it would.  He was always in perfect form. 


Other stories presented tremendous difficulties.  Not necessarily because creators were creating problems. 

Our biggest production difficulty in Taboo #4 that Tundra did help us with and see through was the

separations’ production on the Elaine Lee/Charles Vess story—very tricky and intensive because it involved

merging half-tones and line art.  Some of that stuff had to be hand cut into the negative.  Remember, this was

when computers were just coming into production work.  A lot of that work could be done today much

quicker and much cleaner, but at that time it had to be done by hand.  That particular story, which is still one

of my favorite Taboo stories, was a bitch, production-wise.  It’s hard for a non-artist to understand that.  If

you look at that finished work, you’ll see this very intricate interweaving of half-tones and, as sharp as we

could get them, of Charlie’s beautiful pen & ink work.  It was a tough job.  Sometimes the obstacles were

presented by the nature of the material and it was our goal to bring the best printing we could to the process. 


But it was frustrating and constantly a struggle in working with Tundra in that they didn’t understand why I

just couldn’t assign deadlines to the artists and make them stick to them.  They didn’t understand that Taboo

#7 wasn’t going to be what I thought it was while I was doing Taboo #5.  It would be what it would become by

Taboo #7.  This was nuts to them.  They thought just lock in who was going to be in there and stick with it. 

Of course, they had similar problems on a much grander scale with their entire operation, but let’s not go there.


RA: While I was going through Taboo, I noticed that you used to put these little bookmark style sales ads in a

couple of your Taboos. They would give you advance information on the next issue and what they announced would

change from what appeared on the bookmark to what was in the actual issue.  The contents of an unpublished issue

were somewhat fluid and I remember at one point that Taboo #6 or #7 was supposed to be accompanied by a 24

pages in 24 hours comic that you were doing and that ended up in the book itself rather than as a separate comic



SB: My 24-hour comic was published in “some” copies of the book.  There are two editions of Taboo #7: the

pre-order edition, and the ‘re-order’ edition sans the 24-hour comic pages.  It was not an insert, per se, the

pages were an integral part of the book, bound and timed like the rest.   Some copies of Taboo #7 featured my

24 hour comic, ‘A Life In Black & White’.  The reorder copies did not feature that story.  It was an idea to

boost the opening orders.  It was probably not a good idea but we did it.  We had another issue, Taboo #6, in

which the preorder copies were shrink-wrapped with a ‘Sweeney Todd’ pamphlet—a “Penny Dreadful”—

with it.  If you didn’t preorder than you didn’t get that.  The reorder copies were just the book.  These were

all marketing schemes to try to boost the preorders for the book.


My other big frustration with Tundra was…I completely understood why Tundra wanted ‘From Hell’ to

exist as a separate book from Taboo.  It was too good a property to lock up in this quirky, bizarre anthology

title.  Dave Sim warned me back in 1987 that the problems with anthologies was always the temptation to

serialize a longer work.  But that once you do that the longer work either transcends the anthology and

discards it or it drags the anthology down.  It’s one or the other.  There’s no exceptions.  Dave was right. 


‘From Hell’ transcended and, thank God, survived Taboo.  It continued and was completed long after Taboo

ceased to exist.  But Tundra unnecessarily cut the throat of Taboo to get there.  When they released the first

collection in 1991, that was no problem because the Taboo issues in which those chapters first appeared

were out of print.  There were no lost sales.  From the start, I asked, I did not demand, that Tundra promote

Taboo in conjunction with the From Hell collection.  I could see the crossroads that we were going to arrive

at: that the speed of the publication schedule that they wanted to maintain would eventually catch up with

and outrun the quarterly schedule that Taboo was on.


RA: As it turned out, Tundra’s collections didn’t outrun Taboo.  The original run of Taboo ended in 1992 and the

second issue of the From Hell run didn’t appear until 1994 or so.


SB: Well, yeah you’re in the minority for recognizing that.  To this day, even Eddie Campbell says Taboo was

running behind Eddie & Alan’s schedule, which simply wasn’t true after Taboo #4 and our relations with

Tundra.   Now, the reason Taboo Especial came out as a special one-shot issue was because Alan and Eddie

were still working on that issue’s chapter of ‘From Hell’ and I didn’t want to put out an issue of Taboo that

didn’t have ‘From Hell’ in it.  So I put out Taboo Especial, so that we met our quarterly schedule.   I really

designed that book to be a different beast from a regular issue of Taboo.  It had a different tenor, a different

tone, much more playful.


RA: Much less graphic than a regular issue.


SB: The introductions, by and large, are lighter.  It was really designed to be a primer for Taboo.  But the

only reason it existed at all was because Alan and Eddie needed more time and I would never pressure the

creators.  If the work wasn’t done for the issue at hand, no problem.  It’d go in the next one.  But ‘From Hell’, 

being the serialized backbone of Taboo, became a problem that way.  I saw where we were headed and I was

afraid as soon as the process started with Tundra collections that the train wreck was down the road.  It was

visible.  The train was coming and the cars were not going to be stopped.  Sure enough, that, in large part, is

what did us in. 


RA: Well, Tundra couldn’t have been too much of a blow though, because, as I mentioned earlier, there was a three year gap between the collected From Hell #1 & #2.


SB: There was, but immediately…well, this gets into what was going on within the company, and I’ve talked about this before in the Comics Journal interview.  Tundra fostered a sort of ‘trench mentality’ that I saw take hold first hand.  Earlier {in the Bissette interview that will accompany the Marvel B&W Horror Magazines page, Bissette discusses seeing the following two editors’ interaction with the freelancers that they had on the phone—see that page for more details} I told you about visiting Ralph Macchio and Rick Marschall…how they operated at the Marvel offices.  There I was, a young freelancer in my early 20s, walking into the offices of Marvel!  The Bullpen!  What a dream house!  And I’m seeing that the people working in the offices are basically in a trench.  It quickly turns into them against the freelancers.  That’s just how it is.  It’s the reality of office life.  If you work in an office, you see it.  It’s human nature.  I see it at the video store that I was the co-manager of and worked in for years.  It’s just how people function.  You’re in a room, every day of your working life, with a bunch of people and it becomes you {and your group} against the world,  just to get your job done. 


I saw it develop from scratch at Tundra.  It was incredible to watch it happen.  I watched at Tundra how it went to the guys in the back room becoming this virtual tribe with their own turf.  They had their own business turf to maintain at Tundra.  You could see from the developmental stages how these rifts occurred between editorial and marketing, the front office and the back office—not just that they’re there, but how they develop and how the friction and rifts come out of human nature.  It’s just what people do.  It’s always manifest in different ways, in different permutations but it’s just what people do.  We can’t help it.  We’re human beings.  Part of what happened to Taboo grew out of that.


The guys in the back at Tundra--whom I won’t name because there’s no reason to slight people or to make them feel badly now--were engaged in a process of trying to control distribution.  They wanted to be in charge of the product.  The guys in editorial were trying to shape the product.  You can see how those two realities of the business would inevitably come to loggerheads.  And of course, all freelancers were, by definition, outsiders to both realms.  “The Other.”  Here I am, a freelance editor, outside of Tundra—editing Taboo.  I’ve created it before Tundra even existed.  I’m bringing it in so suddenly I’m adding a proprietary new wrinkle to this thing.  When they decided to do From Hell as a collected book, they suddenly assumed they had control of From Hell.  Alan is in the UK.  Eddie is in Australia.  I stayed out of the way as much as I could.  I wanted Alan & Eddie to earn the additional money.  They certainly deserved it.  I paid everyone in Taboo the same amount of money.  Everyone got $100 a page. Period, plus royalties—and only Taboo #1 earned royalties.  That way there was no playing favorites.  Which meant that Alan & Eddie were splitting $100 bucks a page for ‘From Hell’ to appear in Taboo.  That was not a lot of money.


For them to land this sweetheart deal with Tundra to collect From Hell, which had already appeared in Taboo, meant Tundra’s collections would earn additional, and very sorely needed, income for them.  It helped subsidize the work on the current chapters that appeared in Taboo.  That all made sense to me.  But it became problematic when I asked the people at Tundra at the meetings I was invited to if we could find a way to promote Taboo through the success of the From Hell collection.  These should not be works that are competing with each other when they appear from the same publisher.  There’s no upside in that sort of situation.  Tundra lost money if I lost money.  Cutting Taboo’s throat to elevate From Hell was just going to drag down the whole process.  It got even more complicated {which Neil understood perfectly} when we introduced Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli’s ‘Sweeney Todd’ serial in Taboo #6. 


Tundra immediately assumed that, by proxy, because ‘From Hell’ had appeared in Taboo and was being

collected by Tundra that ‘Sweeney Todd’ was going to be the next serialized Taboo project that Tundra was

going to collect and publish. 


RA:  Well, that sort of thinking really seems like a comic book mentality.  Because with any other publishing venue,

a serialized magazine or story doesn’t automatically appear from the same company unless it’s spelled out that way

in the initial contract. If, for example, Gregory Bedford, publishes an except of an upcoming novel in Playboy, the

novel itself doesn’t necessarily get published by Playboy Press, unless that was the deal to begin with.  


SB: Exactly, and both Neil and Michael went, “No, we doing this for ourselves.  It’s to appear in Taboo but

it’s our story.  We’re not necessarily going to publish the collected chapters at Tundra.  It might go to Tundra

down the road but it was premature to even think about that.”  And Tundra got pissed.  Certain people at

Tundra got pissed.  Suddenly I was a problem.  Neil was a problem.  Michael was a problem.  It was just

another example of that problem that Dave Sim was struggling over with Diamond back in the Aardvark-

One days.  The assumption that as a publisher [you could and should do] X-Y-Z.  In Dave’s case, a

distributor assumed that because Dave was the publisher of ‘Puma Blues’ we will punish him [over our

problems with Cerebus] by canceling ‘Puma Blues’.  In this case, it was Tundra going “Wait a minute.  We’re

able to collect ‘From Hell’ but we can’t presume we have ‘Sweeney Todd’?  How dare you? “ 


RA: Didn’t Tundra sign a contract with Moore & Campbell for the rights to republish and collect ‘From Hell’? 


SB:  I’m not privy to what contracts existed, what negotiations they went through.  My agreement with every

single individual who appeared in Taboo was that I bought one-time publishing rights only.  I didn’t want

any hooks in the material.  That was absolutely essential to the Taboo Manifesto.  We were simply providing

a one-time venue.  I’ve had business people tell me I was stupid [to do that].  I could have had a big pot of

gold from the From Hell movie.  I didn’t get a nickel from that and that’s fine with me.  I didn’t create that

work.  It’s not my property. 


RA: I guess if you’d gone out and sold the property to a movie studio, acted as an agent as it were, you might have

some claim of some kind.


SB: Maybe so but that wasn’t the nature of my relationship with Alan & Eddie.  My relationship is that I

invited them into Taboo.  They’d both had work appear in Taboo prior to ‘From Hell’.  I’d published Alan

Moore’s ‘Come On Down’ in #1 and Eddie’s ‘Pajama Girls’ stories.  ‘From Hell’ grew out of Taboo.  Alan &

Eddie conceived of ‘From Hell’ for Taboo.  As the editor of Taboo, I pulled Alan & Eddie together.  I

suggested Eddie as the ideal artist when Alan first phoned me with the concept of ‘From Hell’,  I placed the

“break the ice” phone call, and they took it all from there, They didn’t necessarily need me, but I was the

midwife.  When Alan came up with ‘From Hell’, he wasn’t sure who to approach to draw it.  Plus, it was this

giant sixteen chapter expansive novel. 


Another thing to remember was that in 1988-89 when the work began and Taboo began to come out,was that

one of the things that was attractive to Alan was that I didn’t care what page length each chapter of ‘From

Hell’ was going to be.  I wasn’t going to lock him into any specific page-count parameters.  That was

something that Alan had never had available to him.  Swamp Thing had to be 23 pages—each issue.  Those

stories for the Judge Dredd comic had to be a certain length and that was it.  From the start with ‘From Hell’,

the idea was that if chapter 6 was six pages or 56 pages, I didn’t care.  Whatever it works out to, you write it. 

From Hell was a true graphic novel.  A novelist doesn’t not sit down and say every chapter in my book is

going to be 20 pages, unless it’s part of some esthetic they creating.   To confine chapters in that way is an

artificial constriction that’s been imposed on serialized comics because of the nature of  publishing



RA: It’s a 32 page pamphlet and that’s it.


SB: Exactly.  Marv Wolfman and Gene Colon, who created the first and one of the greatest graphic horror

novels with ‘The Tomb Of Dracula’ still had to fit each chapter of that book into the page count of the

monthly ‘Tomb Of Dracula’ comic.  That was the format they were publishing in.  It was incredibly

liberating for Alan in 1988-89 to have no restraints of any kind placed upon him, period. 


The content didn’t concern me.  If it was going to go into sexual territory, into graphic violence—if it was

going to be one page long or 100 pages long, I didn’t care.  The chapters were going to take their own shape.

The graphic novel was going to grow of its own volition into what it needed to be.  In comics that was

something new.  That hadn’t existed before. 


I remember being on a panel at some convention with Gary Groth and bringing this up and Gary ridiculed

me.  He said that’s ridiculous.  [Story length] was never a constraint on anybody.  And I said “Tell me

where?”  For Alan, it was an incredible freedom.  It was just as liberating as the lack of any restraints on the



So that was the agreement I had with Alan & Eddie.  We didn’t have a formal written contract.  It was their

property.  My only right was to publish each chapter for the first time in Taboo, and that was it.  After that

they were free and clear.  I had no hooks into it. 


It been very gratifying that every time Jeff Nicolson collects Habitrails, and I think he’s done two or three

editions, Jeff reprints my introduction and sends me a check for $100.  Because the introduction is one page

long and I paid Jeff $100 a page [to publish it originally].  Jeff has always reciprocated in kind and that

means a lot to me.  It’s more than a gesture.  It’s Jeff upholding the agreement. 


It would have been nice to have gotten some money when there was a From Hell movie but that was up to

Alan & Eddie.  I don’t impose it on them and we didn’t have an agreement about it.  It’s none of my business. 

We carry ourselves how we carry ourselves in this world.


The whole rationale behind Taboo was that it was a kamikaze publication.  {laughter}  It was suicidal in

concept, that we were going to be a publication that was going to push the envelope to the point where it was

going to offend somebody somewhere, and most likely be banned.  That was the absolute purpose of Taboo. 

And that I would have no hooks into the properties that appeared in Taboo; hence, as a business entity,

unlikely to be self-supporting, sans any licensing or further revenues from collections.  The properties, which

is how publishers look at this work, belonged to the creators.  It was their work and I had no business getting

anything more from it.  I was sustaining Taboo on good graces of the creators who were contributing.  That

wasn’t a viable business model in the 1990s. Probably not a viable business model anywhere at any time but

that’s what I was doing at the time.


We pulled the plug on Taboo with #7.  Relations with Tundra over Taboo eroded to the point where it just

wasn’t viable to continue.  They didn’t want to continue and I didn’t want to continue.  I saw to it that every

creator who finished his work was paid.  If Tundra had not paid them, I paid them out of my own pocket.  I

also saw to it in 1993 when I got my first royalty check from the 1963 project that I repaid Kevin Eastman the

sum of money that he named to reimburse Tundra, and Kevin personally, for the investment into Taboo. 

That was $20,000, plus nominal office expenses that were itemized and invoiced.  I paid it out of my pocket to

Kevin Eastman and I had him name the amount because I didn’t want him or anyone else ever to say I had

taken Tundra for a ride with Taboo.  That was money paid out of my pocket.  I tried to be as honorable and

ethical as I could every step of the way with Taboo.  I ripped off nobody.    [Addendum: all documents

relevant to this 1993 transaction, including cancelled checks, are now in the Bissette Special Collection at

Henderson State University.]


Taboo #8 & #9 came out of the handful of stories that remained unpublished and that the creators really

wanted to see appear as part of Taboo.  I contacted all the creators and informed them.  Some of them went

and published their own material.  Some of the stories we had paid for to appear in Taboo came out

elsewhere in other forms.  But the stuff that appeared in Taboo #8 & 9 were specifically the stories that we

paid the $100 a page and the creators said that they wanted us to hold onto them until we could put them out

in some form of Taboo. 


RA: Those last two issues basically came out with no frills.  No introductions or bibliographies, etc.


SB: Yeah, there was nothing.  I did an issue-relevant intro to #8, I asked Dave Sim if he’d care to write one

for #9, which he did, and that was it.  I was working on Tyrant at the time and that’s where my heart was.  I

felt duty bound, an obligation to get that material out as Taboo. Denis Kitchen and I had always had very

good relations.  We discussed it and Denis said let’s do it.  I didn’t even take an editing credit on it.  I did

shape the material with the gentleman who was named as editor.  He went on to work at Dark Horse, in part,

because he was able to get his editing credentials at Kitchen Sink.  I certainly didn’t need to get any credit but

it was a conscious decision to not have the introductions.  Taboo was behind me and Tyrant was my baby. 


RA: There were some good stories in those last two issues though.  I particularly liked the David Lloyd story. 


SB: There were some great stories.  The Lloyd story was the third installment of Tim Lucas’ ambitious

‘Throat Sprockets’.  He wrote three comic scripts in all, expanding the conceptual territory with each

installment, and David illustrated the final comic story of ‘Throat Sprockets’.  It was later completed as a

novel.  Dell published it in hardcover.  It’s also come out in paperback in a couple of countries.  I’ve got some

Australian editions out in my garage.  Tim is a tremendous writer.  He’s got a new novel out this month {May

2005} called Renfield: A Dream Of Dracula.  Tim was a freelance writer for magazines like Fangoria, Video

Watchdog, Film Comments.  He and I struck up a friendship in the 1980s.  We became very close friends—

long distance—as we both loved the same films. We had a real affection for the Italian director, Mario Bava. 

Tim and his wife are just about to put into print his book on Mario Bava, called All The Colors Of The Night. 

Tim took a real interest in Taboo.  He always loved the comics and he asked me if he could take a hand in it

and I said sure.  It was interesting.  It was a bit like the process I went though with Alan Moore.  He sent me a

script that was very good but it was funny.  It wasn’t disturbing in any way shape or form.  Alan had done

the exact same thing.  Tim sent me a script called ‘Your Darling Pet Monkey’ and it extrapolated on the old

comic book ads that featured a little monkey in a cup or a little dog in the cup.  You’d mail order these

miniature pets, and Tim fantasized a sort of worst-case scenario, but it was amusing, not unnerving.  Alan

Moore had done a script about a family going on the vacation-from-hell.  It was hilarious!  I remember tears

in my eyes reading that script.  It was a great script!  But with both Tim’s monkey story and Alan’s vacation

story I felt they were great scripts but neither was disturbing or scary.  It wasn’t Taboo territory or material. 

I wanted them to dig deeper, find something that bothered them.  In Alan’s case he came up with ‘From

Hell’.  He read me over the phone the outline for all sixteen chapters.  In Tim’s case, he came up with a one-

shot story called ‘Throat Sprockets’, which eventually grew into a canvas of comic stories, then the novel. 


RA:  I really liked that initial story.  It was in Taboo #1.  Very dark and creepy.  A great title too, that had several

different meanings within the context of the story.


SB: It was a brilliant story.  The best story in Taboo #1.  I love all the material in Taboo #1 but ‘Throat

Sprockets’ is the story I’d point to, to say this is where Taboo is going.  It, in no way,resembled any horror

comic book story that had ever been published. 


RA: I don’t think it resembled any prose horror story that I can remember.


SB: It was completely fresh.  It had a fresh perspective on reality, on sexuality, on what was possible with



RA: On midnight and underground movies too!


SB: It was a story which, by its very subject, involved the visual medium and engaged comics as a medium, on

a level that was profound and very disturbing.  It was about watching, viewing—which is, after all, what the

act of reading comics involves, and the act of viewing cinema.  There is an innate voyeurism at work in both

mediums.  It made perfect sense to explore this imaginary movie, this sex film, that this guy found himself

secretly slipping away to view between-hours showings at work and the effect it has on his personal life, on his

own sexuality.  That could be explored and communicated through the medium of comics more deftly than it

could in either the medium of cinema or literature.  Comics is the perfect medium for some stories and

‘Throat Sprockets’ was the perfect Taboo story.  Tim continued it into two other scripts, there were three

stories in all: the first two were illustrated by Mike Hoffman and the third by David Lloyd.  Mike is a

wonderful artist.  I love a lot of Mike’s work.  He did more stories for Taboo later on, including one story that

he wrote.  I was always open for Mike’s work but he was so rattled by that second ‘Throat Sprockets’ story

that he drew that he couldn’t do it any more.  It disturbed him too much.  So Tim was left adrift.  He’s a

writer with an original concept that he owned and he was cast adrift.  He loses his artistic collaborator.


RA: Well, David Lloyd was a perfect replacement.


SB: David was perfect and yet David also ankled the project.  There was something about the chemistry and

it wasn’t Tim per se.  Tim is one of the most affable, likable people you’ll ever meet.  But he had a hard time

with both Mike and David, for some reason.  And I’m not casting judgment.  I remain on good terms with all

three of those people.  But after the situation with David, I told Tim he didn’t need Taboo and he didn’t need

comics.  “You’re a writer.  Write Throat Sprockets.”  Tim ran with that and completed it as a prose novel. 

That was one of the many things that grew out of Taboo. 


I’m very proud of what came out of Taboo.  The very concept was to create this sort of rich soil that all this

new stuff could grow out of.  It’s one of the things I’m proudest of.


RA: I always had a feeling that with the Nicholas Cage movie, ‘8mm’, somebody somewhere had read Throat



SB:  Yeah, it’s possible.  There were also a number of novels that came out around that time—Flicker,

Ancient Images, a number of others…and ‘8mm’ is the least of the films or books.


RA: Oh, I know it’s not a particularly good film but in some ways it evoked, or at least tried to evoke, the

underground, secret movie aspect that Throat Sprockets did so well.


SB: I always thought Dan Clowes’ The Iron Fist In A Velvet Glove had, in a way, been inspired by Throat

Sprockets.  I don’t know that for a fact.  They were certainly linked, in some essential ways.  A good story’s a

good story.  But out of Taboo came Charles Burns with his teen plague stories, Rolf Stark did ‘Love In The

Afternoon’ and then went on to do his own graphic novel, Rain, based on his Holocaust experiences and his

paintings.  There was From Hell, Jeff Nicolson’s Into The Habitrails, Wendy Snow-Lang’s ‘Want’ which

grew into her Night’s Children series, Alan Moore & MelindaGebbe’s Lost Girls--which is scheduled to be

completed and published sometime this year and I’m looking forward to it, because it’s brilliant.  That serial

was another of the fracture points with Tundra.


We had an all-day closed-door Tundra meeting, a ‘state of the business’ meeting and they had a film crew

production outfit come in from Los Angeles.  Well, what did they show us but a cartoony, teenage—like a

Valley Girls—version of Lost Girls.  I went fucking ballistic.  I was so angry, I remember closing my eyes and

counting to ten so that I wouldn’t lose it.  A live action/semi-animated thing with Xeroxed photographs of

actresses talking on the phone and one of them was Alice and one of them was Wendy.  It was this horrible

Valley Girl, contemporary revamp-pastiche of Lost Girls, called Lost Girls!  My first question to Kevin at

that meeting was “Does Alan know about this?”  Well, no, he didn’t.  I found that an unconscionable breach. 

I just found that unthinkable.


RA: Seems kind of stupid, too.  How could anyone think something like that would be OK?


SB: Well, Kevin got very soft-voiced and said to everyone, “this doesn’t leave the room”.  The production guy

didn’t understand what the problem was.  I’m sure he had been told by whoever he spoke with at Tundra

that anything that Tundra published was fair game.  I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t understand how this could

go to production without a phone call to either Alan or Melinda.  I don’t get it. 


RA: What was the purpose of the tape to begin with?


SB: It was a promo reel for something they wanted to do.  The same firm had done a promo reel of Flaming

Carrot but they had done that in conjunction with Bob Burden.  Bob Burden had been involved in it.  They

were trying to figure out how to spin Tundra into this multi-media conglomerate that would publish graphic

novels and feed the motion picture industry.  It was, arguably, the correct mindset.  That’s what comics have

evolved into.  I know cartoonists personally, right now, that are drawing graphic novels that will not be

published as graphic novels.  They’re being done solely to create a graphic novel that will be published, vanity

press style, to implement a pitch for a motion picture production.  That’s the point we’re at in the year 2005. 

And the people doing that are being paid an incredible amount of money.  So what Tundra was planning on

doing is exactly where the comic community has gone.  In business terms, it was arguably a very smart and

canny path, but not for a publisher claiming to adhere to the Creator Bill of Rights.  They just went about it



The film that was presented as a promo reel for Lost Girls was an insult.  It was absolutely contrary to what

Lost Girls was.  It was infuriating.  I remember having a conversation during the break in that meeting, after

I calmed down, with Kevin’s attorney at the time.  We were at the bar in the hotel where the meeting was at. 

He said to me “You mean to tell me if the film production company wanted to do an anthology film with

Taboo you’d say no?”  I said that’s exactly what I’m saying.  Nobody’s going to make a film of Taboo.  He

asked how I could say that.  I said “They’ll water it down to Tales From The Darkside.  What’s the purpose

of  Taboo?  It’s to do work that’s provocative, disturbing, [designed] to break barriers.  Any motion picture

studio that’s going to pay for an option for something called Taboo is going to water down the material.  They

cannot make a film that would measure up to the manifesto.”  He asked me what I thought a movie of Taboo

would be like and I told him it would be a movie that you couldn’t show in a theater in America.  It could

not get an R rating.  It would not be advertised in a newspaper.  My dream film of Taboo would be you get

David Lynch, you get Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, Jorg Buttgereit [Nekromantik, Der Todesking, etc.],

the most insane Japanese filmmakers working right now, Shozin Fukui [964 Pinocchio, Rubber’s Lover] or

Takashi Miike [Ichi the Killer, Gozu, etc.], a weird mix of potential lyricism and outright assault.  You match

them with other confrontational, in-your-face collaborators, and you turn them loose.  You go for the

directors who are going to go for the throat.  You give them their head and you give them the money and you

get out of the way—and you’ll end up with a movie that no one’s going to release because it’s too fucked up. 

{laughter}  That’s not a commercial venture.


RA: True.  If you’re going to put that kind of money into it, you want to make money off of it.  You want it to be



SB: That’s right.  The movie From Hell validates everything we’ve been talking about.  As soon as you put a

graphic novel like From Hell in the mainstream motion picture pipeline, everything is immediately stripped

away that makes From Hell unique—as we all saw. 


RA: Movies need a hero and I don’t recall From Hell necessarily having a real viable hero in it.


SB: Well, it does but it’s Gull.  It’s William Gull.  It’s the story of the dark spiritual journey of William Gull

and what he does to everyone in his circle and in his wake.  How his actions affect everyone in his orbit, from

the prostitutes he kills to the inspectors who are trying to solve the crime to the coach driver, who is the only

human being aware of what Gull is doing.  It’s Gull’s story, from childhood to his squalid demise in an

asylum and beyond.  That’s the story of From Hell.  It functions on a human level and on a cosmological level. 

My favorite sequence of From Hell is that moment when Gull has his heart attack and sees the gods, the

Masonic gods and, suddenly, From Hell opens up into this Lovecraftian scale of cosmic awe.  You suddenly

see what would seize a human being and drive him to those acts.  Whether Gull was, in historical reality,  the

perpetrator of the crimes or not doesn’t matter.  That’s not what the book’s about.  It’s about how a brush

with the infinite creates a monster.  And whether you’re talking about such monumentous personal

transformations in real life, like Philip K. Dick, who had a similar brush with the infinite and it knocked him

off the deep end but in a spiritual way—or not, what Alan & Eddie told the story of was how a man became

this murderous monster because of his brush with the infinite.  Whether it was real or not doesn’t really



The film wasn’t about that.  The film became what every Jack The Ripper film becomes: “Who done it?”  As

soon as you take away Gull’s story so you can set up a fictional narrative film where the mystery is “who is

Jack the Ripper”--you’ve taken away everything that makes From Hell—From Hell.  That’s what Hollywood

does with these things.  It’s rare when a film like American Splendor is made.  That is so perfectly attuned to

its material, to its source, to its people and creator Harvey Pekar, that you want to dance. “They got it!” 


There’s one more thing I’d like to mention.  The ripples keep spreading from Taboo.  There’s a filmmaker

here in Vermont named Ben Coello.  Ben’s a young man in his 20’s.  He and I met about a year ago.  I

interviewed him while working on a book about Vermont films and filmmakers and as I usually do when I

meet creative people I gave him a care package of my work.  You know, a set of Tyrant, a couple of Taboo’s

and so on.  Ben contacted the creator of ‘Want’, Wendy Snow-Lang, and Ben’s just made a short film that

he’s editing right now, an adaptation of ‘Want’.  So the ripples keep spreading and I never know where

they’re going to come from but it’s always interesting when they pop up. 


One of my favorite comic series of the last five years or more is Black Hole, Charles Burns’ strip.  The final

issue just came out.  When I read that last issue, I went back and reread the whole series.  It’s just kinda cool

that this originally was that little 4-page scene in Taboo #1. 


We were also the only comic publisher publishing S. Clay Wilson at that time.  Nobody touches S. Clay’s

work anymore.  John Totleben and I thought that was criminal.  One of the reasons behind Taboo was that

we were going to publish S. Clay Wilson.  Anytime S. Clay’s got something we want we’re going to print it. 


RA: I’m sure if Greg Irons had been alive you would have published him too.  I liked his stuff.


SB: You fucking know it, man.  In fact, one of the things that didn’t get published in Taboo was a previously

unpublished Greg Irons’ story that Tom Veitch had written.  Tom and I were very good friends for a time. 

Tom wanted me to ink it.  All he had were Greg’s roughs.  I think the story was titled ‘Frenk’s Last Tattoo.’ 

Pencil roughs on tracing paper and plain paper.  I tried it but I just couldn’t do it.  It was weird.  I even had

dreams about Greg.  It was a very troubling experience.  I never met Greg.  He and I had exchanged letters.  I

have a sketch framed on my wall that Greg had sent me because I had left some books at his cabin in

California.  Rick & Tom Veitch and I had dropped by and tried to visit him but he wasn’t there.  He’d have

been in Taboo in a heartbeat.  I tried to ink the story and I just couldn’t do it.  Whenever I’d start I’d be

trying to copy Greg’s brush line and nobody does Greg’s brush line but Greg.  It was also kinda creepy.  It

was kinda disturbing working on a dead man’s pencils.


RA: {chuckles} It would have been perfect for Taboo then. 


SB: We did put Greg in #1.  One of his unpublished sketches is on the inside back cover.  The penis-headed

flasher.  So I found a way to get him in there.  There were a lot of undergrounders I invited—Kim Deitch,

Spain Rodriguez, Savage Pencil from the UK, whose real name is Edwin Pouncey.  Spain was interested but

the only thing we ever ended up running was in conjunction with ‘Eyes Of The Cat’.  I contacted Spain to get

his permission to the ‘El Topo’ script that had been in one of the rarest underground comix, Douglas Comix,

which was actually a catalog for a record company.  It was a great strip.  I mean, Spain sums up El Topo in

four pages!  Who can do that?!?  {laugher}  He could and he did!  Whenever I could, I found a way to pay my

debt to the undergrounders because they’re what got me into drawing comics.  I owe the world to those

underground comix. 


RA: It would have been nice if you’d gotten Richard Corben.  He’d have been good there.


SB: I asked Richard repeatedly.  In fact, Richard and I had, for a number of years, an exchange of numbers

and phone calls.  At the time of Taboo Richard was just didn’t think he had anything to offer Taboo.  At the

time he was reprinting his own work again and, if you recall, he was censoring his work. 


RA: Yeah, I have those books.  He was also complaining about censoring his work, but he felt the marketplace

wouldn’t take his work as it originally appeared.


SB: Well, he felt he had to do it.  Part of it was that market concern that Richard felt was very real but part

of it too, I think, was a personal struggle.  That’s just me interpreting our handful of conversations.  I would

have loved to have Richard.  The invite was out there.


RA: It would have been great to have had Bruce Jones, for that matter.


SB: Bruce Jones at that time was focused on writing for television and also writing mystery novels.  In the

1980s & early 1990s you had top draw comic creators from Bruce Jones and Howard Chaykin who were

focused very intently on writing feature films and television.  Bruce Jones and his wife, April, scripted a lot of

the episodes of The Hitchhiker.  Howard Chaykin was fighting like hell to make his way into Hollywood.  He

scripted Flash episodes.  He wanted to script feature films.  Frank Miller was writing Robocop 2, which [the

original] I always thought was lifted wholesale from Chaykin’s American Flagg.  The concept and the whole

tenor—the idea of using the TV commercials—that was American Flagg.  No two ways about it.  Anyhoot,

that was where Bruce Jones was working to get to.  A lot of comic professionals, both artists and writers, were

trying to break into the big time.


RA: Yeah, it’s always bugged me that two of the best comic artists ever were doing storyboards for movies and you

never saw their artwork anymore and that was Berni Wrightson and Mike Ploog.  Although Ploog, thank God, is

back doing Abadazad and The Stardust Kid.


SB: Alex Toth. Toth has done more artwork for Hanna-Barbera than for the comics. 


RA: And Hanna-Barbera’s stuff is mostly crap. 


SB: That it is, but Russ Heath has done a lot of that work too.  As did Jack Kirby and Dave Stevens for a long

while.  It’s hard to make a living in comics.  It really is.  It was harder for the generation that came out of the

1970s than it was for the 1980s.  I turn 50 in a week and a half.  I was in my 40s when I was doing Tyrant and

the direct sales market closed down and I found myself in the very shoes of some of my teachers.  I’ll never

forget Ric Estrada coming to class—he was one of our teachers at the Kubert School—and he practically in

tears because he had just been—there’s no other word for it—shitcanned by DC Comics.  He’d worked for

them for decades.  Mostly on the war books.  He’d never missed a deadline, very conscientious and they

basically said “Ric, we don’t need you anymore.  Don’t bother coming around.” 


That all came back to me in my mid 40s and, after Tyrant, I couldn’t find a job in comics to save my life.  It’s

just the turn of the seasons.  It’s like what Bill Loebs is going through right now.  Part of its age and part of

it’s the nature of the business and part of it is you’re put in a box—not just in comics but in the music

business, any business—and when it happens you deal with it.  Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw. 

Sometimes it’s the bed you made.  In my case, I had a bad reputation for deadlines.  I missed a lot of them.  I

caused a lot of headaches.  I’d been an outspoken advocate for creator rights.  I was very outspoken in print

about the wrongs I saw in the industry.  I made my bed and I had to lay in it. 


When you work for 25 years in an industry to arrive at a point of autonomy that suddenly isn’t viable when

the business shifts around you—when the direct market collapsed and self-publishing Tyrant wasn’t viable,

where was there left to go?  I wasn’t going to go back to doing work for hire for the publishers and they

wouldn’t have me if I was willing to.  At that point you change or you die--and I changed.  I changed

 everything about my life.  I’m still who I am but I changed how I make my living, and my kids and my family

are first and foremost.  I had to feed them.  I had to keep a roof over our heads.  That’s it.  By hey, it’s was a

great quarter-century in comics for me.


RA: Well, thanks, Steve Bissette.  Both for the interview and the years of enjoyment.  It’s been a real pleasure. 

[Additional parts of this interview can or will be found at the Marvel B&W Horror Magazines and The Early

Independents pages.]



This document is copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, & 2006 Richard J. Arndt.

© 2003, 2004, 2005, & 2006 R. Arndt.


Do not reproduce or mirror this document without prior written permission.  Mainly, I’m worried about old versions floating around growing stale, so I want to keep track of where they are.  Plus, please give credit where credit is due.  If you want to post it or use it in some fashion, then feel free to contact me at


Not for use or reproduction in any publication or media that is for sale, including but not limited to websites that are ad supported.


This document may contain errors, omissions, or inaccurate material.  It is provided as-is, without any express or implied warranties.  Use it at your own risk.  Although effort is made to keep all the material presented here accurate, the contributors and maintainer of this document will not be held responsible for any damage -- direct or indirect -- which may result from inaccuracies.


Publications, titles of publications and characters appearing therein are ©, ® and/or ™ of their respective publishers, authors or creators.