Earlier this week, Bleeding Cool Editor-in-Chief Hannah Means-Shannon interviewed Alan Moore, during which Moore expressed his extreme displeasure over the actions of Radical Studios regarding the Hercules movie staring The Rock. He alleged that they had mistreated his friend, Steve Moore, who had written the comic the movie is based upon, before his death, then lionised him afterwards to promote the movie.
This included finding a way not to pay the $15,000 lump sum earlier contracts had guaranteed Steve Moore would receive when the movie was made, and that having asked for his name to be taken off the film, Steve Moore’s name was used to promote the film after his death.
Radical Publishing, now Radical Studios, were set up to create comic books to turn into movies, and their previous success in this field was Oblivion – even though the comic was never published. Launched on a wave of investor money in 2007, they burnt through it and found themselves forced to close pretty much everything in 2011. Founders Barry Levine and Jesse Berger are currently surviving on what media rights they can scrape together, and I’ve been told of financial straits the company has found itself in of late as they search for new investment. The importance of the Hercules movie to the company cannot be overestimated. We’ve now learned that Radical have been instructed by MGM not to respond to the story of Alan Moore’s accusations. This is why, even as the story raced across social media, we received no responses from them regarding our enquiries.
C0-founder of Radical, and one mentioned in a negative fashion by Alan Moore in the interview, is Dave Elliott. Elliott’s relationship with Radical was not exactly smooth, and upon his firing by the publisher and their attempt to wipe him from their history – even going so far as to remove him from their Wikipedia page, he sued them. This included a dispute over the creative rights to their Aladdin comic that at the time was being turned into a movie. Radical eventually settled with him for a large, undisclosed sum.
Elliott also worked for Dez Skinn back in the day on Warrior, and created the A1 anthology with Garry Leach, publishing the work of many British comic creators, including both Alan and Steve Moore, as recently revived by Titan Comics.
What Elliott brought to Radical was his ability to recruit and work with comic book creators, creating comics and concepts that could then be exploited in other media by Radical. Creators would get a reasonable page rate and Radical would own the work but media exploitation such as a movie being made would trigger a lump sum payment to the creator. That was the standard, reported by many.
The argument made here is that Steve Moore was sent successive contracts to sign regarding ownership, all mentioning a $15,000 lump sum payment on the eventuality of a movie going into production. Except for the last one, which Steve Moore signed as he had the others, without remembering the omission as he had opted out in favor of a “buyout clause” instead. The interview with Alan Moore revealed Steve Moore’s reaction of surprise to the final contract when he looked at it again, but we’ve since been informed that the final contract did include a buyout clause regarding “character/development”.
It certainly was a work-for-hire contract and, indeed, although Steve Moore was Elliott’s first choice, both Duncan Rouleau and Steve Niles were approached to write the Hercules comic first. And while Alan Moore is very dismissive of the final script, I’m informed that much of the scholarship that Steve Moore introduced into the comic that more recent takes on Hercules have ignored, do make it into the final film – though as Alan Moore states, not the existence of Hercules’ boyfriend.
Alan Moore states that Steve Moore also asked for his name to be taken off the film, however. I understand that Radical executives dispute that without providing direct evidence one way or the other. This may come down to who you believe.
One of Moore’s accusations, that the use of Steve Moore’s name to heavily promote the film was obvious only after his death, seems to hold water based on media observation. Publicity appears in the film press, citing his name, after his death, but not demonstrably beforehand, which does suggest that his death was seen as an opportunity to do so.
However, having seen a private email received by Radical from Steve Moore, I can confirm that he was understanding about the loss of the $15,000, blaming himself in a genteel manner for not re-reading the contract. He clearly acknowledges a new “character/development buyout” clause for an undisclosed amount. I know that Dave Elliott was initially very angry with Radical upon reading the Alan Moore interview, himself believing that Steve Moore was owed such a payment. But discovering Steve Moore’s email response about the payment seems to have tempered this.
It’s worth knowing that Steve Moore was a very polite man, inordinately so. It seems that he confided in his friends his true feelings, but felt unable to express them in such vociferous tones to Radical, or any other related individual.
Because, whether creating the original Tharg’s Future Shocks for 2000AD, forming the scholarly approach of Fortean Times or creating the Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer character for the Doctor Who comics that, in retrospect, would seem to heavily influence so much from Rorschach to Spider Jerusalem from British creators in decades to come, Steve Moore would have a great influence on those around him and it’s a maddening shame that he never received the fruits of that success in one form or another.