Alan Moore’s 1963
1963 no. 1: Mystery Incorporated
|Publication date||April – October 1993|
|Number of issues||6|
|Main character(s)||See Characters|
1963 is an American six-issue comic book limited series written by Alan Moore in 1993, with art by his frequent collaborators Steve Bissette, John Totleben, and Rick Veitch; other contributors included Dave Gibbons, Don Simpson, and Jim Valentino, published by Image Comics.
The six issues hark back to the Silver Age of American comics (in particular, the early Marvel Comics), and feature spoof advertisements on the rear covers—in a manner to be repeated with a twist by Moore and Kevin O’Neill in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Moore’s homage to Marvel clichés included fictionalizing himself and the artists as the “Sixty-Three Sweatshop”, describing his collaborators in the same hyperbolic and alliterative mode Stan Lee used for his “Marvel Bullpen“; each was given a Lee-style nickname (“Affable Al,” “Sturdy Steve,” “Jaunty John,” etc.—Veitch has since continued to refer to himself as “Roarin’ Rick”). The parody is not entirely affectionate, as the text pieces and fictional letter columns contain pointed inside jokes about the business practices of 1960s comics publishers, with “Affable Al” portrayed as a tyrant who claims credit for his employees’ creations. Moore also makes reference to Lee’s book Origins of Marvel Comics (and its sequels) when Affable Al recommends that readers hurry out and buy his new book How I Created Everything All By Myself and Why I Am Great.
The series has never been finished as originally intended. When first announced, the limited series was supposed to be followed by an 80-page annual, illustrated by Jim Lee, in which the 1963 characters were sent thirty years into “the future”, where they met then-contemporary 1993 characters published by Image Comics. Moore intended to make a commentary on how the air of “realism” brought to Marvel Comics in the early 1960s had paved the way for the “mature” and “grim and gritty” American comics of the 1990s. Moore has stated that his own work, Watchmen, is at least partially responsible for this trend.
Unfortunately, Moore was less than halfway through writing the script for the annual when Jim Lee announced that he was taking a year-long sabbatical from comic book art. Moore put the script aside, and after that year had passed, many things had changed. Rob Liefeld had left Image, which meant that some of his characters could not be used. Jim Lee was swamped with work and unlikely to be able to complete the work. The tide had changed, and superhero comics had begun to get less and less gritty, and Moore states his growing disinterest with writing superheroes.
In 2007, Erik Larsen was asked about the status of the project, and explained “Alan had a falling out with one of the creators on the 1963 project and he did not want to re-open those wounds. That ship may have sailed, sorry to say.”  Moore has publicly expressed much frustration with Jim Lee for selling Wildstorm comics (which owns Moore’s America’s Best Comics line) to DC (whom Moore had sworn to never work for again), but it is unconfirmed whether this is what Larsen was referring to. More probably, Larsen was referencing the fact that Moore had cut ties with Steve Bissette due to personal issues.
The comics also contained advertisements for 1963 #1/2, which never surfaced either. It is unclear whether this was an alternate name for the annual, an alternate name for an ashcan edition (Mystery, Inc. and Horus were both published as ashcans), or another facet to the project which never came to fruition.
The Tomorrow Syndicate are the only characters to be featured outside of the original miniseries, having made an appearance alongside Big Bang Comics‘ Round Table of America, in an issue of Jim Valentino‘s A Touch of Silver. The Fury also appeared alongside the Syndicate in an issue of Valentino’s Shadowhawk, during which the title character traveled back to the past in search of a cure for the AIDS virus.
Issue one introduced Mystery Incorporated, a Fantastic Four surrogate featuring Crystal Man (based on Mister Fantastic), Neon Queen (based on Invisible Woman), Kid Dynamo (based on Human Torch) and Planet (based on The Thing).
Issue three, an anthology comic called Tales of the Uncanny, featured USA, Ultimate Special Agent based on Captain America, and Hypernaut, who was based on Iron Man, with elements taken from Silver Surfer, Green Lantern and Swamp Thing.
Issue five was devoted to Horus, Lord of Light, based on The Mighty Thor.
Issue six told the story of the Tomorrow Syndicate, based on the Avengers. This comic brought back Horus, Lord of Light, Hypernaut, N-Man, and USA, and also introduced Infra-Man, based on Henry Pym, and Infra-Girl, based on Janet Van Dyne.
- ^ 1963 annual at Comicon
- ^ Erik Larson comment, Newsarama
- ^ Erik Larsen quoted in Johnston, Rich. “Lying In The Gutters,” Comic Book Resources (Sept. 29, 2008): “Same thing happened in a sense — to 1963. I called Alan about that at one point after he and Steve Bissette had a falling out and its time had passed — Alan didn’t want to have anything to do with it.” Accessed Mar. 17, 2009. Archived 2009-05-04.