Eruditorum Press

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

26 Comments

  1. elvwood
    September 26, 2014 @ 2:44 am

    I remember that letter. How odd, given all the things I have forgotten (or indeed misremembered – I thought the story was called "The Red Lodge").

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  2. Wm Keith
    September 26, 2014 @ 3:07 am

    1. That letter is surely by Mr Moore or one of the editors.

      2. The image of the "taboo" person being fed using a long stick is (I am certain) remembered from a colour plate from a children's encyclopaedia published in Britain in the 1950s and entitled "The Book of Knowledge". At any rate,it is a very vivid image from my childhood reading.

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  3. C.
    September 26, 2014 @ 4:32 am

    to be fair, the steak knife display (love that the local supermarket has an enormous array of large, sharp knives pointing out in all directions, like a medieval torture device) is one of the dopiest Moore plot resolutions ever. I agree w/ Wm Keith that the letter was possibly from Moore or an editor admitting how silly it was.

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  4. Ice
    September 26, 2014 @ 4:49 am

    In the forward to the Swamp Thing trade paperback containing these stories, Steven Bissette says that he was likewise unhappy about the steak knife display. His parents (I think) owned a grocery store and he knew no grocery store would display the knives outward like that.

    In my opinion, it's so very strange that in a story with a message as important as that, the plot device at the story's climax is the number one thing that keeps coming up.

    As an aside, will you be expanding on Levitz "mistake" line? I was unaware of that.

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  5. Tom
    September 26, 2014 @ 5:07 am

    What an interesting tidbit about Levitz! What was the context, I wonder…

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  6. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 26, 2014 @ 7:09 am

    I have little trouble believing DC received such a letter, to be fair. Some Googling suggests that the writer wrote into a couple of comics around that time, and looking at the ones I have copies of, none of his other letters have the feel of being plants, so I strongly suspect this one is legitimate as well.

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  7. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 26, 2014 @ 7:10 am

    Not a lot to expand upon, I fear – Moore was unsettled by the line at the time, feeling it to be a strange thing to say, and the resonance only increased in hindsight.

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  8. Sean Daugherty
    September 26, 2014 @ 7:39 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Sean Daugherty
    September 26, 2014 @ 7:43 am

    Paul Levitz has never really hidden the fact that he never really appreciated the more, shall we say, esoteric directions DC Comics took in the 1980s, which were largely inspired by Alan Moore and the British writers that followed him. Which is somewhat interesting, considering that he was writing Legion of Super-Heroes at the time (probably his most famous assignment as a writer) which was edited by none other than Karen Berger, who was simultaneously editing Moore on Swamp Thing, and was the eventual EIC of the Vertigo imprint.

    Beyond that, Levitz and Moore never really got along personally, though I gather most of that had more to do with Moore's disagreements with DC as a whole than with any personal animosity. Levitz was not only one of the top two people in DC's hierarchy throughout Moore's tenure at the company, but he was very much the public face of the organization (Jenette Kahn took much more of a backstage role). If Levitz's didn't understand or approve of the stories Moore generally told, he knew better than to argue with his popularity. And I think there's something to be said for the idea that Levitz, or at least someone with pull at the company, did what he could to respect Moore's achievements and wishes, even after they parted ways. Take the Watchmen situation, for instance: there was a lot of incentive for DC to capitalize on its success, and the collected edition sold like gangbusters, but as long as Levitz remained with the company, very little was done. Not long after he stepped down as president in 2010, DC announced the ill-considered, obvious-cash-grab prequel series Before Watchmen (not all of which was terrible, but which was entirely unnecessary).

    In short, my guy (and possibly entirely incorrect) impression in that Paul Levitz is inherently more conservative (in terms of his interests and inclinations, not necessarily his politics) than Alan Moore, but that Levitz was also enough of a professional to avoid letting the fact that he doesn't personally see the appeal of Moore's style affect the direction of DC Comics. During the time when Levitz held power at DC, the approach pioneered by Moore was very much on the ascendant. As soon as Levitz's departed, much of that started getting systematically dismantled (though, to be sure, how much of that was deliberate and how much reflective of larger scale changes in the industry is another question).

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  10. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 26, 2014 @ 7:47 am

    And on a more basic level, Levitz was always very much a company man, which is a concept Moore, I think, would have looked at with disdain and mild horror.

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  11. C.
    September 26, 2014 @ 8:57 am

    yeah, the "Northampton, MA" seems a very accurate address, given the letter's tone and contents (I know from experience)

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  12. Ice
    September 26, 2014 @ 9:17 am

    Thank you, Sean and Philip for your elaboration there.

    It seems like such an odd comment.

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  13. BerserkRL
    September 26, 2014 @ 5:29 pm

    Paul Levitz is inherently more conservative (in terms of his interests and inclinations, not necessarily his politics) than Alan Moore

    Well, he's unlikely to be less conservative in his politics than Alan Moore.

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  14. Sean Daugherty
    September 26, 2014 @ 10:01 pm

    Well, it seems like an odd comment because it is an odd comment. Levitz may not have liked Moore's storytelling, and the two were probably never likely to be personal friends, but Levitz's reputation in the industry is basically sterling otherwise. The situation between him and Moore is arguably the only burnt bridge in his 40 year career in the American comic book industry. The idea that he'd casually insult Moore like this is, without a doubt, odd.

    Which leads me to think it was probably a misunderstanding of some sort. Levitz could have been trying to make a joke and misfired badly, or Moore could have misinterpreted what was being said. I mean, it's certainly possible that Moore just rubbed him the wrong way, or that he was just having a very, very bad day, but the fact that it does seem so unusual is what makes it stand out as worth talking about, I suppose.

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  15. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 26, 2014 @ 10:30 pm

    There is a case to be made that Levitz understood Moore better than anyone else at DC, save perhaps for Karen Berger. And that in Levitz's case, that is ultimately the problem – he recognized before Moore did that Moore was in fact a poor fit for DC.

    I mean, the most astonishing thing about that "greatest mistake" comment is that it's been proven so right. Moore really was Levitz's greatest mistake.

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  16. timber-munki
    September 27, 2014 @ 5:17 am

    With Levitz there is the question of what was his involvement in vetoing the UK release of League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Black Dossier. The arguement given for DC blocking the release was that some of the material Moore & O'Neil was using was still in copyright in the UK, which rather falls apart when they didn't seem bothered about similar potential copyright issues with the Superman/War of the Worlds Elseworlds title they released 9 years earlier.

    I seem to recall there was claim of some shenanigans from DC around this at the time, although I'm not sure how much was truth and how much was Lying in the Gutters/Bleeding Cool gossip-mongering. Given the ease at which it was possible to get the book on-line from American suppliers (I think I got mine from Amazon) if they were blocking it as a way to get at Moore it all struck me as a bit shoddy from DC and I'd like to think the President & Publisher of the company was above that sort of thing.

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  17. Matthew Blanchette
    September 27, 2014 @ 7:22 am

    Wait… where was that thing about Schwartz that you said last time you were going to include in this one? :-/

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  18. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 27, 2014 @ 7:26 am

    I didn't say it was in this part. It's in… /checks. Part Sixteen.

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  19. Matthew Blanchette
    September 27, 2014 @ 7:27 am

    Oh. Also, just found this essay online, and it's really relevant to what you're writing here, I think: http://www.english.ufl.edu/imagetext/archives/v5_4/condis/

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  20. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 27, 2014 @ 7:53 am

    I've made a conscious decision to mostly ignore secondary sources for Last War in Albion, just because it was one of the only ways I could constrain the scope of the subject at all (and because so many are so poor), but as you might imagine given my past association with ImageTexT, I am aware of this one, and indeed will make a somewhat more succinct version of this argument next post.

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  21. Elizabeth Sandifer
    September 27, 2014 @ 7:55 am

    (Though, to be clear, a version I assembled by looking at several sources. But Condis's article was an influence, so good find.)

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  22. Matthew Blanchette
    September 27, 2014 @ 8:21 am

    Fair enough. Do you think Moore would've included the Native American aspect of "The Lodge" had he known more about real Native American cultures?

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  23. Sean Daugherty
    September 27, 2014 @ 9:52 am

    The problem with some of the more salacious rumors surrounding the Black Dossier fiasco, in my opinion, is that it's not clear who actually stood to profit from the thing. If DC executives were doing it to screw around with Moore, then it's weirdly late, limited, and self-defeating. LoEG was a fairly high-profile property, after all, and blocking its publication because of a corporate (or personal) feud with one of the creators is a bit odd. Not impossible, but it's a bit of a logical leap without some compelling evidence. Plus, it's not like this seems to rank very highly on Moore's personal laundry list of grievances with DC: he seems to cite his complaints over the marketing of the V for Vendetta movie or the modifications to the first LoEG volume far more frequently.

    Also, I had thought it wasn't the UK copyrights that were an issue. It appears that despite DC's original statement that the book wouldn't be published outside of the US, it did see a British release. The problem seems to have been with other countries. Which means the comparison to Superman: War of the Worlds might not even be applicable. The publication of the two books was quite different (the Superman title was basically a glorified periodical that might not have gotten substantial overseas publication to begin with, Black Dossier was a proper hardcover release that, due to the high profile of both Moore and the project itself, would have normally gotten a much wider release. And even if that's not the case, there are any number of other ways to explain why DC's stance might have changed in the eight years between the two releases (it might not have specifically been the H.G. Wells copyrights that DC was concerned about, or the new found cautiousness could have been a direct result of problems caused by the earlier release).

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  24. Daru
    February 19, 2015 @ 12:36 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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  25. Daru
    February 19, 2015 @ 12:43 am

    I have to be honest that as a teenage boy in scotland I didn't really think about the problem with the knives being on display the way they were at the resolution.

    The thing that really got me about this story was, albeit through the prism of horror, got me thinking deeper about issues I had been formulating gradually in my own head. Potent story.

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  26. Daru
    February 19, 2015 @ 12:55 am

    Oh and I meant to add that as I am seeing some of this earlier colour work for the first time (I saw later stuff), the work of Tatjana Wood is just simply so lovely, subtle and amazing. Some of the best colour work I've seen.

    Reply

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