Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lost & Bound

Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls is about to see print in an upscale (translation: expensive) three-volume hardcover edition from Top Shelf. And pretty much everything about this book has been botched--so badly so that I have my doubts that I'm going to stock the book at all.

First off, Moore prefaced the solicitation for the book by doing an interview with Publisher's Weekly in which he described the book as pornography. Here's what Moore said: "I didn't want to call this 'erotica' because, for one thing, erotica is material relating to love. What we wanted to talk about was sex, and so I thought that the word 'pornography' was probably blunter and more honest." So there we have it--the author going on record in an official capacity that this book is pornography, knowing that this can create countless problems for retailers who stock the book.

Then there's the tangled conflict of interest involving the publisher, Chris Staros. Staros lives in Cobb County, GA, a community that has in the past tended to pursue pornography cases. Staros is also on the board of directors of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization that defends first-amendment cases. Staros has already called on the CBLDF to expend funds on his behalf when a book of his was held up in customs, and I have no doubt that he'll call on the CBLDF again when and if Lost Girls is seized and someone is arrested. That's where the conflict of interest comes in: is it fair for the director of a group like CBLDF to create a "red-flag" project like this, knowing that his fellow board members are extremely unlikely to vote against taking his case? It's almost like fishing for a case, with someone else paying for the bait... (If someone has to be the defendant in this case, though, I'd rather it be the publisher than a retailer who ordered this book thinking it was the latest project by an award-winning author. The retailer might not know what he's getting; Staros knows beyond a shadow of a doubt what he's publishing.)

Then there's Top Shelf's ongoing alienation of retailers by (a) offering the most desirable edition of the book, the signed limited edition, only from themselves and not wholesaling it to retailers who have supported them for years, and (b) offering all editions of the book direct from them before shipping it to retailers. In most fields, this sort of "customer-sniping" would be reprehensible behavior; in comics, it's standard operating procedure for publishers who routinely "poor-mouth" and claim it's the only way they can create revenues and "build buzz."

What a complex series of problems. An overly expensive, badly-illustrated (I've seen Melinda Gebbie's art on the early installments of this, which were originally published in comics form in the 1990's--one thing I can say is that her art is so crude and unappealing that it's difficult to find anyone who'd think it's arousing) work of pornography that, according to those who've seen the book, includes depictions of bestiality and pedophilia. You see, the main characters of the book are Dorothy, Alice, and Wendy--three women who, as young girls, experienced something fantastic and other-worldly. Now they've come together to share their experiences with others who can understand what they've gone through--and apparently, to have a great deal of sex in every imaginable combination... And I gather there are flashbacks to their experiences in Oz and Wonderland and Never-Never-Land, and those flashbacks would, I presume, involve children...

Problems, problems, problems. Problems so sufficiently disturbing, in fact, that I'm unlikely to carry the book at all. The thing is, I'm not sure I would want to...

1 comment:

Doug said...

I'm kind of shocked that Moore and Gebbie felt passionate enough about this project to actually see it through to completion.

I read one rumor (I think it was Rich Johnston) that supposed that Moore was trying to use Lost Girls to stir up crap in public, make Time Warner mad enough to disassociate with him and put 'V' and 'Watchmen' out of print long enough to get the rights back.

Fat chance, as long as there's money to be made on a Watchmen flick...