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Before Watchmen creators on bold moves, gut reactions & Alan Moore

Along with the official announcement of Before Watchmen, its long-rumored prequels to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, DC Comics trotted out several of the creators involved to talk about the legacy of the original work, their approach to the new project, what they expect from initial reactions — and, of course, Moore’s objections to the undertaking.

Here’s a selection of some of the more interesting quotes:

J. Michael Straczynski, who’s working with Adam Hughes on Dr. Manhattan, and Andy and Joe Kubert on Nite Owl: “Ever since Dan DiDio was handed the reins (along with Jim Lee) over at DC, he’s been making bold, innovative moves that might have scared the hell out of anyone else. At a time in the industry when big events tend to be ‘Okay, we had Team A fight Team B last year, so this year we’re gonna have Team B fight team C!’ Dan has chosen to revitalize lines, reinvent worlds and come at Watchmen head-on. It was, I think, about two years ago that he first mentioned that he was considering the idea, and he’s to be commended for fighting to make this happen.”

Brian Azzarello, who’s collaborating with Lee Bermejo on Rorschach, and J.G. Jones on Comedian: “I think the gut reaction is going to be, ‘Why?’  But then when the actual books come out, the answer will be, ‘Oh, that’s why.’ ”

Darwyn Cooke, who’s writing and drawing Minutemen and collaborating with Amanda Conner on Silk Spectre: “The nature of the undertaking is going to polarize a lot of the readership. I think a lot of people will be excited about this and there are a lot of people that will be dead against it. […] I said no out of hand because I couldn’t think of a story that would measure up to the original — and let’s face it, this material is going to be measured that way — and the other thing is, I frankly didn’t want the attention. This is going to generate a lot of a particular type of attention that’s really not my bag. But what happened is, months after I said no, the story elements all just came into my head one day; it was so exciting to me that, at that exact moment, I started seriously thinking about doing the book.”

Straczynski, again: “A lot of folks feel that these characters shouldn’t be touched by anyone other than Alan, and while that’s absolutely understandable on an emotional level, it’s deeply flawed on a logical level. Based on durability and recognition, one could make the argument that Superman is the greatest comics character ever created. But neither Alan nor anyone else has ever suggested that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should ever be allowed to write Superman. Alan didn’t pass on being brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein, and he did a terrific job. He didn’t say ‘No, no, I can’t, that’s Len’s character.’ Nor should he have.”

Cooke, again: “I’d consider it a masterpiece if it had been able to have found what I would refer to as a hopeful note. … Again, it’s not hard to understand [where Alan was coming from], and that sort of storytelling does have an allure for young people. [But] I think the older you get, the more you look for hope or positive things. Maybe I’m just getting old.”

Original Watchmen editor Len Wein, who’s tackling Ozymandias with Jae Lee, and “Curse of the Crimson Corsair” with John Higgins: “As far as I know there are no plans for more books after this, but 25 years ago there were no plans for these books, so who truly knows? I think reboots are almost mandatory in an industry that has existed for over three-fourths of a century now. The need to inject new blood, new ideas, new approaches, is the only thing that keeps our readers coming back for more.”

“Curse of the Crimson Corsair” artist John Higgins: “The challenge is to make the stories modern and relevant to 2012 and to show what can be done with respect and consideration for the source material that has inspired so many people over the years. By adding to the mythos and not to detract from it. The Watchmen had such an influence on graphic storytelling since it first appeared and is a timeless classic. If we can create a new set of stories that can be enjoyed 25 years on, that would be an achievement and a reward in itself.”

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88 Comments

I wonder if JMS would be so “logical” if anyone ever tried to do a Babylon 5 sequel without his involvement.

Comparing Watchmen to Superman or Swamp Thing is incredibly flawed logic (though of course JMS is far from the first to take this argument). Watchmen was built as a finite story, beginning, middle, and end. Everything you need to know is there. Superman and Swamp Thing were conceived as ongoing serials. That is a fundamental difference.

I would imagine he would be, yeah.

I for one, am not bothered by this at all. Some of, if not all of the books might be pure garbage, but they (like the movie) will not ruin the original source material for me. The same way that the dreadful Dark Knight Strikes Again did nothing to ruin my love for The Dark Knight Returns.

Firstly Alan Moore is God. I was about to stop reading comics in the early eighties until he came along with Marvelman, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing etc. The time I stopped regularly buying comic books on a monthly basis also roughly coincides with his departure from the mainstream. However, I do believe that Alan as well as the DC detractors have gotten this one wrong.
When Watchmen was first released he was still on good terms with DC and I remember there being talks even then of prequels being made following its completion (Minutemen in WW2, the Comedian in Vietnam spring to mind). The whole ‘Watchmen’ thing was not as sacrosanct then as it is today, does anyone remember the role playing game, the badges and original computer game on floppy disk, the proposed movie with Terry Gilliam all of which he must have been aware of and presumably were met with his approval (although I am aware he advised Terry Gilliam against making the movie following initial discussions).
It was understood then that these were DC characters of which Moore and Gibbons had no ownership and they (DC) had the rights to market them as they so wished. Let’s not forget that Nite Owl, Rorchach etc are basically slightly reworked Steve Ditko characters; an equally highly respected artist/writer who has had his own work redone without his consultation by other comic book creators numerous times over the past fifty years, something people often fail to remember.
So at any time in the past 25 years DC could have created further stories set in the Watchmen universe but has steadfastly chosen not to. Certainly this must have been tempting at the time of the Watchmen movie when the shelves of the comic book shops were stuffed with related product. I can only assume the reason they have elected not to is out of a respect for Moore and/or they would not do it without his full participation.
With the 25th Anniversary imminent DC may want to celebrate this with something special rather than just another Absolute Watchmen variation. It is my understanding that DC have approached Alan Moore about this and (if what I have read is true) agreed to now grant him the full rights to the work if he produces some new stories. Needless to say he has declined (if what I have read is also true) with no inconsiderable level of disgust and disdain for their offer.
Given this, DC’s decision to now go ahead without Alan Moore is understandable. Whilst I’m sure we would all agree that it would be a more satisfactory product with his involvement clearly this is not going to happen now. This is a profound shame as I don’t believe there is anybody who would not want to read these stories; people who say “no leave it alone the tale been told” are just liars or fooling themselves. However, let’s not forget that DC have selected a number of highly skilled creators to complete the works all of whom have produced exceptional work in the field
So in conclusion I feel the legion of watchmen prequel critics needs to look at the bigger picture here as there would appear to be no substantial moral or ethical argument against the series and I do not feel that it is an attempt to ‘disrespect Alan Moore’s legacy’ as some may believe.

Exactly, Shaun. And it’s not only that! If Len Wein repeatedly said in interviews, “I’d hate for someone else to work on Swamp Thing!”, and had DC and Wein had a massively public falling out, then maybe the comparison could be made. But that didn’t happen, and JMS just wants to justify to himself why it’s “OK” for him to do this.

Earth-2 Chad nailed it.

ION is absolutely right here – the original stuff is still there, untouched. Ignore this stuff if you don’t like it. Don’t buy it, or even read it if you’re so against it. What if some of it is good though? It’s possible. But either way – the Moore/Gibbons stuff will always be there, untouched.

“We need new blood, new ideas, new approaches, so let’s rehash a quarter-century-old story that lost a great deal of its relevance when the Iron Curtain fell!”

Didio and DC have zero respect for their creators and (with the reboot) zero respect for their long-standing audience. The top brass at DC have shown they will prostitute themselves in any way for $$$.

No no no no no no no no no no no this is a bad idea. Rather than trying to cash in on a complete and self contained masterpiece, why don’t comic creators focus on doing something original and of its time (i.e. now)? I’m absolutely gutted for Alan Moore.

Can I be the first to declare this silliness ‘not canon’?

The adventures of Before Watchmen will take place on Earth-$.

That is the very dictionary definition of a poisoned chalice. Not to mention, pointless and creatively redundant.

JMS et al must be either very brave or very stupid – even if they’re all excellent (unlikely), people will poor scorn on them and HATE them just because of what they are and what they represent.

Plus, Alan is certain to put a curse on all of them. He cursed the LXG movie. Successfully, it seems.

“Ever since Dan DiDio was handed the reins (along with Jim Lee) over at DC, he’s been making bold, innovative moves that might have scared the hell out of anyone else. ”

Seriously? This is about the furthest possible thing from bold and innovative.

I look forward to reading six issues of Dr. Manhattan walking his way across Mars.

dc still owns the rights to watchman if they want to do sequels they are going to do them whether people want them to or not . and with out Alans involvement.

JMS’ argument makes perfect sense if what he was arguing against was actually what was being stated by people against this project. This is not a “you shouldn’t write characters that weren’t created by you” issue. We’ve all been reading comics written by varied creators for a long time. We’re not stupid, we understand the custom of passing a character off ad infinitum. What the contention is is that the original work stands alone as the seminal icon of what graphic novels can be at their best, and, as someone said earlier, it has a complete beginning, middle and end. Everything you need to know is within the four corners of the collected series.

If, say, Alan Moore many years ago had discussed possibly doing a sequel but plans fell through, I would be perfectly fine with this, even without his involvement, because there would be an indication that the door was always open for these characters to continue in some form, but that does not seem to have happened and, frankly, the book itself precludes any need for more books. What is JMS going to tell us about Doctor Manhattan that wasn’t laid out, in all its accessible complexity, in the original work? I love Azzarello’s work, but what on earth can he possibly do with Rorschach, arguably the most compelling character in a book of incredbile characters, that could add *enough* to the mythos to be worth the effort?

Again, I am actually a big fan of JMS (as a writer and as a teacher of writing) and Azzarello, and pretty much every artist in the lineup, so I hope my statements are not seen as an attack. It’s just disheartening to see something like this that was clearly done for the quick buck, and sorry, JMS, but while I agree with your passive criticism of Marvel’s events, you have absolutely no high ground to stand on here.

Man that new DC logo looks like crap when it’s presented with an actual title.

The funny thing is, the target readership for these books are the very same “fans” who are now decrying it. Does the general public even give a crap? Maybe when the movie came out, they would have, but now?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with prequel material. Moore and Gibbons left plenty of room and guideposts for that stuff. I don’t see anything “disrespectful” there. Sequels? That’s probably not a good idea.

I only question why now? The wrangling with Moore took so long that it seems the window for this seems to have closed, but we’ll see. I hope Azzarello is right, and we all say. “Oh, that’s why.”

Because the list of creators certainly sound good.

I like this collection of talent. There is no reason why this can’t be good.

Also, according to an unsigned statement from DC offices, “Mo’ money!”

No Dave Gibbons….

Amanda Conner, why :(

Moral conflict, dot-com :(

I’m gonna have to buy that and then go to Confession after (I’m not even Catholic)

Every other one of those cartoonists is irrelevant to me.

Moore has to grow up and stop being a baby. He started being more famous for his disputes with DC, etc. than for his comics about 10 years ago. When the Marvel douche story actually became news it was pretty clear that it was time for people to just let go.

As for new Watchmen: new creators working on characters created by someone else? Wow. Welcome to comics.

I am actually excited about this. I just started reading comics regularly with the New 52 and the Marvel.1 thing, but I bought Watchmen back when I was in grade school. It was mind-blowing for me, and I have followed comics and graphic novels from a distance ever since. It is just such an awesome set of characters that it is almost a waste to not tap into that universe to some extent. I don’t think that DC should be chastised for Alan’s self-righteousness. The fact that these are all prequels does box them in a bit, which people who are against this should be happy about. I think I would understand the outrage a bit more if we were talking about sequels.

I love WATCHMEN, and think it is the greatest graphic novel of all time. I’ve discussed it in depth in more than one class I’ve taught at a library conference. It is worthy of being on TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 Best Novels of All Time.

That being said, as a bedrock of the form, it will stand and remain on its own. Further stories won’t diminish it; Watchmen will still be there for you to pick up and read again.

Watchmen takes place years after the group is disbanded. I’ve been saying for years that I’d love to see stories about them in their prime – and stories their predecessors, the Minutemen. I’d welcome a monthly Minutemen series.

I think Alan Moore is a genius, but no one can write Watchmen but Alan Moore?
No one has told Frank Miller, “Bah, you can’t write The Dark Knight Returns, that’s Bob Kane.”
The Dark Knight might have been just another good Batman story, and that would’ve been fine, but it ended up redefining the character, bringing more adults to comics, and helped establish graphic novels as an art form!

I say, Onward Watchmen!!

*I* think this is the worst thing in the world in the history of history. I refuse to buy these books, therefore EVERYONE should not buy these books either. Those who do want read them should never be allowed the option of buying them because of *MY* opion! Even thinking of creating these books is spitting on Alan Moore’s grave… even if he’s not dead.

“If, say, Alan Moore many years ago had discussed possibly doing a sequel but plans fell through, I would be perfectly fine with this, even without his involvement, because there would be an indication that the door was always open for these characters to continue in some form, but that does not seem to have happened and, frankly, the book itself precludes any need for more books.”

Actually, there apparently were plans for a Minutemen prequel (or another kind of prequel) by Moore and Gibbons but it did fall through.

You know what? I’m cool with this. I may pick the issues up or wait for the trades. If they’re terrible, then I’ll ignore them. If they’re good, then I’ll enjoy them.

These characters were based off the Charlton characters anyway, there’s no reason for DC not to do this.

It’s not as if a bunch of prequels written by other writers is going to damage the enjoyment of the original in anyway. It’ll still be a masterpiece and always will be.

Is it bad that the only thing I care about is how this (and Jupiter’s Children) changes the chances of Multiversity actually coming out?

James Castle, I bet you’ve got a red-hot pitch for a new Gulliver Travel as well.

Darryl Ayo: you comparing Watchmen to Gulliver’s Travels and, similarly, Moore hilariously comparing it to Moby Dick is just nuts. Sure, Watchmen is a classic and probably belongs on any list of “the greatest graphic novels of all time” but it doesn’t rise to the level of those novels. At the end of the day the characters in Watchmen are specifically based on existing characters. Plus, the whole theme of the book is a comment on classic superhero archetypes. It very much sprung out of and depends on the very nature of comic books. One aspect of which is that other people get to play with your toys.

All this freaking out is just an expression of the Moore fueled elitism that seems to course though his fan boys. Get over yourselves for the love of god. We’re not talking Moby Dick or Gulliver’s Travels here. We’re talking about the work of one self obsessed, self promoting comic writer whose days are long past.

Alan Moore is definitely one of my idols, but his disdain towards creators taking stories then writing prequels, homages or sequels, and either adding to their story or reinventing them seems to conveniently ignore his own “transgression”..

Let’s look at one of my favorite Moore works: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

– reinvented and added to concepts that were far older than 25 years.
– the characters were from stories that had previously ended
– the characters were all taken from classic literature
– the books were done without the consent of the original creators

So, while I respect the man’s work, he is fast becoming somewhat of a petulant, self-righteous blowhard.

All you whiners will be standing in line at the comic book stores to get the fist copies of these minis as they come out

Oh, and Alan Moore is so fucking full of himself it disgusts me

To quote Nirvana: “Rape me… rape me my friend. Rape me… rape me again”.

The sad thing is no one on the list is as nearly capably technique wise as Moore. Not even Cooke really. The only creators that I can think of who are and are working at the big two are probably Morrison, Quitely, maybe Hickman and Lemire. Kindt would actually do a good Minutemen job.

The only cartoonists working nowadays that have the ability are probably Moebius, Frank Santoro, Chris Ware, Gary Panter, Brecht Evants. Their understanding of the medium is largely unmatched. Thankfully, their making their own thing.

@Joe:
Moore couldn’t really ask those guys for permission since they were probably all dead. And LoEG isn’t supposed to be canonical to any of those novels.

Moore is still alive and didn’t want the movie to be made, but they still made it, and he doesn’t want other comics to be made, but they’re still making them.

I agree with you to some extent, of course, but I also disagree. I think the biggest issue at hand is that he is still alive and they’re doing these things against his will.

Most writers have the right to say no to things being made from their work while they’re alive, even in comics. DC wouldn’t make a new Sandman series without Gaiman’s ok, or a new Jack Knight without Robinson’s, or a new Hitman without Ennis’, but just because Moore and DC are enemies they have to do stuff he doesn’t want them to do?

Moore has built the entire second half of his career on sexed-up pastiche. His complaints are ludicrous.

They could actually probably do Jack Knight and Hitman without the writer’s permissions…

Cole Moore Odell

February 1, 2012 at 9:26 am

People who get on the internet to call Alan Moore names aren’t fit to comb his beard. Moore’s use of public domain concepts is *nothing like* what’s happening here. Public domain encourages the recontextualization of works that have fallen out of copyright by anyone who wants to use them. That’s the whole point. Before the entertainment industry started its march toward perpetual copyright, the whole idea was to give creators a short window of profit, then open ideas up to the enrichment of the entire society.

This is more of a hostage situation. If and when Watchmen falls into the public domain (aka never, as things stand), all the prequels, sequels and reimaginings in the world will be wonderful to see. In the meantime, this is nothing more than a cynical cash grab by a creatively bankrupt company against the express wishes of the original writer, and in violation of the self-evidently finite nature of the original text. It is pathetic that current creators could think that they are somehow paying tribute to the original when the actual key creator of the thing is right there in today’s New York Times saying, and I quote, “What I want is for this not to happen.” Just because a story pops into Darwyn Cooke’s head doesn’t meant it has to be published. This is a guy who bent over backwards to get Donald Westlake’s blessing for his Parker graphic novel adaptations, and now he does this?

Mr Pants – Morrison and Hickman – HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!

This project is just one more example in a long line of examples that proves that current publishers and creators have no original ideas of their own

Even the 90’s – as sucky as they were – had comic people coming up with new ideas. Not anymore

I see no difference between DC creators coming out with new adventures of Alan Moore’s Watchmen characters and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series where Moore makes fast and loose with the literary creations of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard, etc. In fact, the Watchmen characters were just renamed versions of characters mostly created bySteve Ditko. So what’s the big deal? Just because it’s Alan Moore and he likes to throw hissy fits?

In my opinion, while it is certainly a great read, Watchmen has had nothing but a negative influence on the superhero genre and *that* is the only reason I have doubts about the “Before Watchmen” project. After Watchmen came out, almost all comic book creators were suddenly trashing the conventions of superheroes and focusing on “grim, gritty” characters who wore leather jackets over their spandex instead of capes and whose adventures were aimed at 20-30 year old males. Most of the wow and wonder left mainstream superhero comics and we have seen new readership drop and drop and drop, partly because of that.

Alan Moore is a very good writer. Great? Maybe. Prima Donna? Definitely. And to treat his work like it’s sacrosanct? Pure bull. He’s a talented writer, but there are better ones who get far less attention and don’t have his baggage. Some of them are working on this project.

The ways in which these filthy bastards speak disdainfully about Moore fills me with rage. You know nothing of art, of culture of creativity.

Death to the comic book medium. Die

Although I have been against this from the start, and love the original, there are a couple of things to think about:

Moore has known that DC has been wanting to do this for a long, long time. Although he has LOTS to say about how his relationship has gone with them, they did offer it to him and he turned them down. He could have said, “Alright, I know they are going to do this anyway, I might as well step in and make sure it’s done right.” But he didn’t.

Having the original creator on a work in no way insures that that follow up work will be any good. The Dark Knight Strikes Again had the original creative team from Dark Knight Returns making it and it is terrible. ASBAR also had Miller on it, and it sucked story-wise. Neal Adams’ Batman Odyssey is completely unreadable and good only for the art, and he worked on Batman for years.

I like these artists, I like these writers. I do wish they would have done something else…but my feelings on not touching Watchmen have nothing to do with a respect for Moore. He wrote the freakin’ Violator mini for Todd McFarlane and that story is crap too. I revere the work, not the man.

How would H. Rider Haggard feel about how Alan Quartermain was used in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Or any of the creators of the characters Moore used in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?

How would J.M. Barrie feel about how Wendy was used in Lost Girls?

How would Bob Kane feel about how Batman was portrayed in The Killing Joke?

When Moore did a few Green Arrow stories in the 80s did he worry what Mort Weisinger and George Papp would think of him using their character?

For that matter how does Steve Ditko feel about the pastiche of The Question Moore created in Rorschach?

The thing that pisses me off the most about this is Adam Hughes is wasting his time drawing his series when he could be finishing All Star Wonder Woman. Also I’ve lost much respect for all involved.

“I see no difference between DC creators coming out with new adventures of Alan Moore’s Watchmen characters and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series where Moore makes fast and loose with the literary creations of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard, etc. In fact, the Watchmen characters were just renamed versions of characters mostly created bySteve Ditko. So what’s the big deal? Just because it’s Alan Moore and he likes to throw hissy fits?”

Let me explain the difference: The characters in the League are in the public domain; also, none of their creators were standing on the sidelines pleading with Moore not to do the series.

People can hate on Alan Moore all they want, but he was one of the creators behind Watchmen, and he doesn’t want to see prequels or sequels or anything else.

So while these prequels will not in any way harm the legacy of the original work (I’m guessing Darwyn Cooke’s contributions will be quite good, actually), if Alan Moore doesn’t want it to happen, and he’s still with us, it’s wrong to go forward, no matter who owns the rights. Do you think Darwyn Cooke wouldn’t be pissed if DC announced a New Frontier ongoing tomorrow against his wishes, without his approval or involvement?

And yes, the Watchmen characters are analogues of the Charlton characters (though they got altered quite a bit along the way), but so what? They’re NOT the Charlton characters. I’d love to see plenty of these creators work on new concepts, or at least concepts where the original creator’s wishes aren’t being violated, but instead we’re going back to the well yet again.

We can only hope that they will reach the heights of quality and artistic integrity achieved by the Star Wars prequels.

The Lucasesque name Before Watchmen sure is promising.

— MrJM

JMS ON DR. MANHATTAN
“I was very careful to stay within the parameters of what Alan created for Dr. Manhattan. But at the same time, you need the elbow room to create a story worth telling, which means something new has to be created. In this case, it came through looking at what Alan had done and asking the next logical question within that framework. As one example: it’s always bothered me that someone as brilliant and precise about time as Jon could just blithely walk into the intrinsic field test chamber as the time-lock closed. He’d know better than that. But since it did happen, you now have to say, “Okay, that being the case, how did it happen? Is there something we don’t know? Or more to the point, was there something he didn’t know?” Asking that question, and a number of others, began to have a profound effect on both the story and Dr. Manhattan himself. The result, for lack of a less dopey term, is a reexamination of the facts in the case on a quantum level that will branch out to have very large consequences.”

Typical JMS = “The accidental origin wasn’t an accident.”

Is it possible to think everyone involved is a fool? I think this is an idiotic idea – there is a very real possibility this could permanently taint the reputations of the creators as well. That said, Alan Moore went all John Byrne/Frank Miller/Harlan Ellison crazy a long time ago. He’s joined the comic book world’s list of crazy granddads ranting about aliens in an old folks home.

Everyone involved, on both sides, is out of their minds.

It’s sad – I feel like we should be taking up a collection or something. Maybe a trust fund to hire nurses to make sure current creators like Dan Slott or whoever take their pills on time so they aren’t the next passengers on the crazy bus.

You hear that, comic book creators reading this? DON’T WAIT TILL IT’S TOO LATE. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. SEEK HELP. IF YOU’VE BEEN PRESCRIBED PILLS, PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, TAKE THEM. Your career, [Shatner pause] have to end in crazy town. [cue closing video of thunderclouds parting and couples playing in fields of daisies with their dog]

A complete non-issue, as far as I’m concerned. If DC owns the rights they can do anything they damn well please with the characters. That’s been the accepted SOP in comics for 3/4 of a century and I see no reason why it should suddenly change because the bearded ego has his panties in a twist.

[sigh] Accidentally deleted the word “doesn’t” in the second to last sentence of my previous post.

You can try to put the focus on Moore – how eccentric he is, that he’s a curmudgeon, whatever

But it does not change the fact that this is a shameless cash grab, and an utterly transparent ploy to sell books by DC – whether Moore is “bitter” or “crazy” does not change this fact

And as someone has already said, I have lost a lot of respect for all the “creators” involved in these prequel books

First, to say that Moore is excused for his use of other people’s characters because they are in hte public domain is a pretty thin argument. Especially so because he seems to be arguing about Integrity and respect. Integrity and respect would not allow a writer to co-opt someone’s creations just because it is no longer owned by anyone.

Second, You are right that it is not public domain, it is private domain, owned by DC COMICS! He signed the contract he knew what that entailed.

Third, on the subject of this being a cash grab or a money making scheme. NO DUH! they are a business after all. Everything they do is motivated by the money they can make off of it.

Oh wow – I just read the stupid quotes above from the creators involved in this. Cooke decides that a good way to start this project off is by criticizing the original Watchmen comic

I guess the question of whether they will respect the source material has been answered

For all of the belly-aching that will ensue…..these things will sell in the boatloads. Book it. And for the record, it’s fine by me that they’re doing it. Moore is a complete narcissist with a bad attitude that thinks he’s above everything and everybody. But he’s not a bad writer, by any stretch. I just don’t think he’s OH MY EFFING GOD OUT OF THIS WORLD!! Shakespeare, he is not. He’s a fine author. I really enjoy Watchmen. But I like V for Vendetta and LoEG much more. Additionally, DC needs to be commended for bringing in top talent for these projects.

Cole Moore Odell

February 1, 2012 at 11:22 am

JMS’s quote about Dr. Manhattan reveals an underlying problem with projects like this. In order to justify the existence of new material, the current writer is obligated to invent a “next logical question” whether one exists or not. So the new text either serves to undermine the supposedly venerated source material by poking holes, or else is by definition inessential–an untold tale that self-evidently had no impact on the characters and situations in the original, since it was never mentioned there. All this reputation demolishing, wallet lining angst for what will invariably be junk food. I’m sure that JMS is being very intentionally clever by structuring his story as an allusion to Moore’s famous everything-you-knew-was-wrong splash into DC with “The Anatomy Lesson” but the comparison doesn’t hold up.

(Because I feel obligated to pre-emptively spell it out: Wein and Wrightson hadn’t loudly implored others for years not to touch Swamp Thing; Moore was a 20-something breaking into an industry with almost no creator rights, not a 50-something comics vet ironically enjoying the benefits of the world Moore helped create; and Swamp Thing was never conceived as a finite, self-contained series.)

@Ollie By Golly-The worst thing ever huh? Worse then every single war that has ever been fought?

On topic, I don’t know how I feel about this. On one hand I am curious about what the stories would be, as well as grateful it’s not a sequel (yet). On the other hand something about this just feels wrong to me. Not because I worship at the alter of Moore as so many seem to do, but just because there is no reason to mess with perfection.

There’s nothing bold or innovative about strip-mining a 25-year-old property. In fact, that’s the opposite of “innovative.” This is a safe, bland, corporate move. And it’s made worse by the fact that neither of the original creators is directly involved, and in fact one of them is against the project.

It’s also sad that so many of today’s superhero fans side with corporations rather than creators.

The good news? There’s lots of good and ORIGINAL creator-owned work out there. That’s where I’ll be spending most of my comics money in 2012.

I respect Alan Moore and applaud him for sticking with what he believes in but I think he he lives in a dream or forgot what medium this is and should really look around. Sure it would be great if comic books evolved and showed everyone on the planet their greatness (because that potential to present a story is still untapped and there’s still a lot of innovation possible) but most of the time those are simply good stories.
Some creators deliver a superb story but that doesn’t change that shitty movies, shitty games and shitty books are still being made. Whether this will be the case only time will tell but when I see the creators names I’m at peace and very much look forward to reading some of these. I mean the original Watchmen was 25 years ago and at that time it was really revolutionary but I would like to see something updated/modern that ‘pushes the envelope’ and makes you uneasy.

THIS is a better event than any Fear itself, Crisis or AvsX. Seriously, AvsX should be an 6 issue mini series with a few one-shots at best (considering Children’s Crusade was a good prelude for that). On the other hand I say OK to Before Watchmen, if they won’t try to do it again and again then a few mini series is a great way to remember a classic story.
Only Comedian and Ozy are a bit longer than they should have been (6 issues instead of 4 like the rest of characters) and I hope that everyone involved realizes that even if it will be a bestseller there should absolutely be NO more Watchmen stuff in the future for a longer period of time. That said it’s interesting what will happen with that G.Morrison’s Multiversity project after this has stollen the spotlight.

As wonderful as Watchmen is, I really don’t believe that it’s the best thing Alan Moore ever wrote. It represented a certain coming of age of his storytelling technique and his mastery of the form, but much of his subsequent work is far stronger– and given the base knowledge of the superhero genre necessary to grasp so much of the subtext, far less accessible to the non-superhero fan than say, From Hell or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or even Promethea.

I think Alan Moore knows his story isn’t that great anymore at it’s core and is afraid someone does something good with the same characters. And in what world 12 issues (or let’s say a single novel for example) is enough for anything. If no one could use Dracula or Sherlock Holmes then we would never know if it could have been better. Watchmen deserves another shot AND let me be clear – a shot – not another mini series next year or another 4 sequels in the future.

I see DC decided to go down the Prequel path that has laid to fame and success of the Star Wars Films. Jolly good DC, I look forward to seeing how you handle this, because your main continuity comics were such a smashing success at- OH GOD DAMN IT!!

Here’s some perspective “Brandon”

This is a pathetic cash-grab by a creatively bankrupt company

These books won’t be very good

These books will sully the name Watchmen because they will bear that name

The creators involved in this project are also doing a cash grab. So, they have neither personal integrity nor creative integrity

See, I can cut to the chase too

What are people complaining about? It’s not like JMS will finish his run anyway.

Here is another thought…the Star Wars prequels were not even close to being the quality of the originals, and all of those had their original creator helming the project.

But had it been done right, had Lucas actually sat down and taken the time to make sure every comment, every action was in keeping with the continuity of the later films and actually crafted a real, quality story, he could have made the saga, all six parts of it, truly epic. We all know that he took the archetype of the hero myth and used that as the template for the original trilogy. What if he had taken Oedipus Rex, or some other Tragic Hero archetypical story and used that for the prequels and presented Anakin as a sympathetic character whose hubris caused him to fall? Would having done the prequels exceptionally well diminish the quality of the later films?

Again, I am not for this, but the more I think about the creators involved, I get more curious…they have to know they have such a legacy to measure up to, that they know they will be held responsible if they screw it all up, and give it their A game effort. As someone else has pointed out, knowing what went on before, in the heyday of these characters, IF DONE WELL, shouldn’t diminish the quality of the original work, but only foreshadow the future.

Johnny Sarcastic

February 1, 2012 at 2:48 pm

I think the part of this that I hate the most is that I’m going to buy them anyway, dammit.

“If, say, Alan Moore many years ago had discussed possibly doing a sequel but plans fell through, I would be perfectly fine with this, even without his involvement, because there would be an indication that the door was always open for these characters to continue in some form, but that does not seem to have happened and, frankly, the book itself precludes any need for more books.”–Hi there. Welcome to today’s edition of Things Every Comic Book Fan Should Know By Now. I’ll just point you in the direction of the year 1986: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Before_Watchmen#Background

So, I take it you’re “perfectly fine with this” then?

I do find it ironic that JMS of all people is working on this, given that he has famously made big stinks whenever he didn’t have full creator control…That being said, I don’t hold Watchmen to be some sacred and unapproachable work of genius (I would be in the minority in believing Zach Snyder’s film to be superior). I do find it to be a particularly unique comic book experience, and I greatly appreciate its focus on character, but…it’s not perfect. I love that it’s gotten a lot of readers who wouldn’t ordinarily admit that comic books are actually readable to have a look at one, but again…it could actually have been better. Other creators having a crack is exactly what the creative process is all about. That’s what the creative process has always been about. Someone comes up with an idea, and other people eventually have a chance to work on that same idea. Look at Greek mythology. Look at the way we learned the story of the Trojan War. Many, many years after the fact.

That being said, let’s be serious about this. You can play your outrage all you want. If these stories are top quality, they will be remembered. If they aren’t, then they will make a splash and then disappear. That’s what happened with The Kingdom, Mark Waid’s own follow-up to Kingdom Come. Do you even remember The Kingdom? Or how about Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating…Remember that? Before Watchmen will either add to the legacy of the original story or it won’t. Don’t sweat it.

Or you know, do the typical fanboy thing and freak out like it’s what you’re supposed to be doing, rather than actually enjoying the stuff you claim to enjoy. It’s not like that mentality is self-defeating…

The more silly responses I read, the more I think I’ll probably check at least a few issues out.

Could it possibly be worse than “Fear Itself”? Can anyone really say that with a straight face?

Here’s a thought: wouldn’t it just be a total catastrophe if one of Moore’s throwaway ideas ends up being the best damn thing he’s ever done…and the derivative properties go on to be even bigger than anything else he’s ever done?

That would *really* make heads explode, innit?

Is the realist Alan Moore? Seriously.

Proclaiming that the books won’t be any good months before they even hit the shelves is ridiculously presumptuous. Saying that the books are a “ploy to make money” might be the most obvious statement of this young century. Guess what? DC is a comic book publisher. ALL of their comics are created to make money. Next, assuming that the creators involved are cash-grabbing is asinine. I think anyone, and I mean ANYONE who knows even a little bit about comic books will tell you that the last thing most (if not all) of these creators would ever do is involve themselves in a project SOLELY for the money with little or no desire or concern about the project itself. Cooke, especially. That guy could work on any project or property for any publishing company he wanted at the drop of a hat. They would bend over backwards for him.

People, it’s simple. If you’re against it (for whatever reason), don’t buy it. If you’re interested like I am, let’s buy it and see what it’s like. I was 4 years old when Watchmen was published. It’s a solid story, but I have no emotional attachment to it. In fact, I personally think The Dark Knight Returns is the best series of all time AND Moore has better works. And as I said in an earlier post, if I had to guess, my guess would be that these things are going to sell a ton and we MIGHT even see more of them. Would that be such a bad thing in some of the cases? If Cooke really hits the Minutemen out of the park, what self-respecting comic book fan wouldn’t LOVE to see him flesh out their adventures in a manner similar to The New Frontier? Eh, we’ll see. Now……..FLAME ON!!!

I got nothing against creators there is some really good ones working but why is this coming now? They missed pretty much 25th anniversary. Movie several years ago. Someone mention Dark Knight Strikes Again as don’t as work (that more has to do with frank miller insanity) but agree with Alan Moore. DC keeps mining old ideas because looks like they are out of them. The only difference now is there digging out one to do prequel still falls into it.

“they’re in this business to make money, geez!”

No they are not. If DC really wanted to make money, they would cultivate ideas, not obsessively pick over the corpse of a 25 year old classic.

What a preposterous notion. “make money,” don’t make me laugh.

So much hypocrisy. Just so much. It’s one thing to try and play nice with the big publishers to keep getting work and another to try to twist fact so vigorously, it’s making people think up is down and down is up. I have nothing personal against any nvolved int he rpoject, not the even the “suits” that are probably pushing these things in motion, sicne they are merely trying to keep the ship afloat, and how could I since I don’t know any of them. However, once you see something stinks just don’t go near it.

“I think the gut reaction is going to be, ‘Why?’ But then when the actual books come out, the answer will be, ‘Oh, that’s why.’ ” The only reason why is called ‘money’. Simple enough.

“A lot of folks feel that these characters shouldn’t be touched by anyone other than Alan, and while that’s absolutely understandable on an emotional level, it’s deeply flawed on a logical level. Based on durability and recognition, one could make the argument that Superman is the greatest comics character ever created. But neither Alan nor anyone else has ever suggested that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should ever be allowed to write Superman.” What a wonderfully flawed logic this is as well. Superman, Spider-Man, and similar characters were made with the intention of producing periodical stories, without an end in sight; stories that would naturally, in time, be handled by creators other than the original ones. And even in Superman’s case, especially in Superman’s case, there has not been a shortage of conflict as to how the property should be handled.

Watchmen on the other hand is not like that. Watchmen was designed to be a graphic novel. A self-contained story with beginning, middle, and end. To try and pick at the details of it, is similar to standing around after a live music show is over, going back and forth, examining the stage. It may be interesting, but it is no where near as exciting as the actual, show itself. It will just be you and the cleaning crew. And this is what JMS and the other people working on this project are, the cleaners. The main attraction have long bowed out and left the stage, and now all that is that there is are the leftovers. What can I say; enjoy.

This is not about questioning the creators involved in this project quality. It is merely a matter of integrity, creational integrity even. The world of the Watchmen was created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It has been developed by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Every character, every location, every incident, feeling, thought, gesture, every fictional breath, is their creation, their art. For anyone, anyone, to get in that world and start moving things around, is to ruin that world. I like Azzarello’s writng, I drool over Jae Lee’s and Adam Hughes pencils, and frankly there is not one of the people involved in this that don’t make me excited for their work. But not in this fictional world. Watchmen is one of the rare occurences where the comic medium has reached to such creative heights there are just no words to convey it’s quality. It is a beautiful masterpiece. Why can’t it be left to exist that way?

Hey Gary, you’re dumb as hell. I still think everyone that has anything to do with this is a dirtbag.

It’s not *about* Alan Moore not wanting anyone else to write “his” characters. It’s about DC not RESPECTING the creator (who made them millions of dollars) enough to respect the work he did for them in the *first* place. If DC had paid him properly and given him even *partial* creative input (i.e. a phone call to say “is it cool if…?”) 25 years ago, we’d probably have had a non-Moore sequel 20 years ago.

It’s not about money: it never was. How can DC (and the general public) *still* not get that? No wonder the guy’s a bitter old bastard…

To use the Swamp Thing analogy, there’s been a whole bunch of issues between the Wein/Wrightson run and the Moore run. Hell there’s been a bunch of relaunches since. But when people talk about Swamp Thing it’s these 2 runs people talk about.

Quality will out. And time will be the judge.

Michael P said on February 1, 2012 at 6:43 am
“We need new blood, new ideas, new approaches, so let’s rehash a quarter-century-old story that lost a great deal of its relevance when the Iron Curtain fell!”

I wonder if Alan Moore said to his daughter Leah something similar when the worked on Albion…

“We need new blood, new ideas, new approaches, so let’s rehash characters 30 to 40 years old that lost a great deal of their relevance long long before the Iron Curtain fell!”

DC Comics exists to make money for its shareholders. Plain and simple. To believe anything to the contrary is foolish. This will make them money. Everyone needs to leave the ‘artistic integrity’ argument at the door and take the blinders off. Watchmen was created as work for hire. Moore knew he never owned the work so he doesn’t get the right to dictate what the OWNERS of the work do with it. What was owed to Moore, he already got. A paycheck, which I’m sure he happily cashed and spent. What else is there to discuss? Enlighten me, please, realist, since I’m dumb as hell.

Remember Kingdom Come? That was pretty awesome and is still referenced as a high water mark in the industry. Remember the sequels? No? Remember how they ruined how much everybody loved KC? No? Hmm.

These new watchmen thing will make money. They might be good. The talent is mostly awesome, especially the artists. I wish they were doing something different – maybe creator owned, completely original, or not (e.g. I’d love to see Cooke on some more classic DC War characters like Azz did Sgt Rock or Adam Hughes on Wonder Woman) since more stories about Watchmen universe doesn’t sound too interesting to me, but whatever.

I’ll probably pirate them (and this is coming from someone who spends $100 a week on average on comics).

money grabbing, ego-driven w@@kers

Well, lots of pros and cons about this one. Personally, I just hate how there is nothing in comics that can be left intact–regardless of the creators involved. Watchmen, along with a very small number of other projects out there, was created as, or ended up as, a finite statement. That incredible rarity of the comics industry: a complete story.

Everything you need to enjoy Watchmen is contained in one 12-issue series (or one book, if you prefer, which, these days, I do). It’s all there, beginning, middle, end. Is there room for more story to tell? Sure. There almost always is. But, even at best, people will read the new stuff and say, “it was good, but…”

I don’t think it should be left alone because it’s Alan Moore and he’s sacrosanct, but because comics (all media, actually) can’t just leave anything alone, every property has to be milked of all that is good and original and fun. Watchmen is no longer special. It’s about to become just another super-hero series (see that Nite Owl image attached to one of the other articles and try to disagree). And we have a lot of those already. DC, of course, and even some readers here, will disagree. And I understand, we can ignore the new stuff and we’ll always have the original. But, the brand is still diluted.

There are only three certainties regarding the Watchmen prequels: They’ll sell huge (for 2012 numbers, anyway). Both sides will argue their points of view until the bitter end. And the only winner will be DC Comics.

We comic collectors are still conditioned to suck up “the next big event” every time it comes out, no matter how many times we’ve seen it before, or what we initially think of the idea. Avengers vs. X-Men? Another big seller, too. Prequels, sequels, the things-will-never-be-the-same-again stories, relaunches… did I miss anything?

I like Dark Horse Presents these days. Anyone reading that? Good comics. Thanks for reading. Have a nice day!

The problem here is this :- when Alan *originally* fell out with DC, it was over this and the original insult at issue has still never been resolved, addressed or adequately explained in the form of an apology or otherwise.

Alan’s resignation letter to DC began with the phrase “Congratulations: you have succeeded in swindling me”, which they had, and in a pretty cynical and underhand way.

Put crudely, they f**ked him and he has spent the last 20 years f**king them right back using the exact same methods as they had (namely leveraging creator ownership rights according to their original contract to force people into doing what you want them to do, bullying them and exploiting them for all they’re worth). The difference is, DC is a part of a vast, multinational multimedia conglomerate with an army of several thousand corporate lawyers and Alan is a hairy man from Northampton.

If you look at any DC back issue from the mid-80s, Watchmen was being HEAVILY promoted at almost every given turn (even on-panel and in the artwork) and that promotional campaign was almost all leveraged using Alan Moore’s name, capitalising on his relative fame and critical acclaim coming off Swamp Thing; given that it was a limited series featuring a completely new set of characters and scenarios with no previous back-story or publication history, it’s not difficult to see that the early, immediate and massive success in terms of sales was almost totally as a direct result of DC promoting and selling the book on the basis of Moore’s name and reputation; until good word of mouth began to get around, there was simply nothing else to go on and no reason to pick up the early issues and read them and that was clearly the understanding from the start.

Now, DC had made a deal whereby Alan’s control of the characters and the overall work would revert to him as soon as the book had been out of print for two years. After that, if he wants to take the book to Marvel or write a sequel in novel form or do his own movie or TV deal, or just do nothing with them but sit on them, he’s free to do so. This is a pretty reasonable deal on the face of it, since at the time, hardly anything had ever been reprinted or republished as trades etc, and those that had were usually single issue reprints of work for hire superhero back issues.

Once the book was a proven absolute success, DC responded by ensuring thereafter that Watchmen NEVER went out of print, which it never has to this day.

DC has continually milked the Watchmen cash cow ever since, whilst deliberately withholding any control of either the work itself or the characters from the person whose name and reputation they had so cyncially exploited to turn it into a success in the first place. And while doing so, and perverting the obvious intention of the original agreement to publish Watchmen, they’ve used almost every trick in the book to force him to allow them to do things to further exploit the original work for commercial gain.

Alan has fought back and continues to fight back by saying no; they can sell 100,000 copies of Watchmen a year without paying him a cent, but if they want to use the characters as a derivative work in another medium (like Happy Meal boxes or the Saturday morning cartoon), they need his permission and he’s said no. And why should he say yes? Look what they did to Constantine; look what happened with From Hell and LXG.

I suspect the only way that DC are able to get away with doing these new prequels now is that they’ve found a way to argue in court that they’re derivative works from the Watchmen movie, which they do control the rights to (from a piece of paper Alan originally would have signed in the late 80s), rather than a derivative work from the Watchmen comic, which they probably couldn’t do before now without Alan giving his permission. Which is even MORE sneaky and underhanded swindling business following on from before.

And JMS is a fine one to talk on this issue… Every title he’s written for in the last half decade, he’s walked off of in protest, citing editorial interference preventing him from telling the story he wanted to tell, his way, with the characters he had been given.

Everyone cites the recent awful Superman debacle as a low-point, but that completely overshadows the far-worse Wonder Woman fiasco… Can we really trust his commitment to a big, important project handed down to him by editorial mandate that he doesn’t have complete enthusiasm for?

Spike, DC owns Watchmen lock, stock, and barrel. They can do whatever they want, whenever they want regardless of what Alan Moore wants. This includes lunch boxes and Saturday morning cartoons. Remember the toy line? The only “protest” Alan Moore can offer up is refusing to cash his royalty checks. The only way he’ll ever get any say in the matter is if, like you said, they fail to publish it for the certain number of years, allowing the rights to revert back to him. Which, by the way, they will never do. Oh, god! The evil corporation wants to make money! Shocking revelation.

Gary, they only own it lock, stock and barrel because they never allowed the original work to go out of print for more than 25 years; something that is completely unprecedented and defies any reasonable expectations anyone could have had back in 1985.

This wasn’t a work-for-hire deal, it was specifically stated in the original commissioning contract for the limited series that once DC had earned all the money they could from publishing the original series as single issues and reprints (as dictated demand), all rights to the work would revert to Moore and Gibbons after two years.

It’s unclear whether talk of a collected edition of the complete work came up, but if it did, it wasn’t given much thought, since collected editions at the time were rarely produced, weren’t huge sellers and rarely ran beyond one or two initial print runs.

No-one expected the collected edition of Watchmen to remain in print continually for 25 years, which it has. No one could have predicted that as it certainly had never happened before. DC continues to print new copies every year, in the process locking in all the rights for a further 2 years. By 1990, it was becoming pretty clear that they were doing this and pretty clear that they were doing it principley to deprive Alan and Dave control of something that they quite reasonably expected to have returned to them relatively quickly.

At best, that’s disingenuous and deeply cynical. At worst, it’s corporate theft and fraud and certainly represents bad faith on DC’s part and has been used to dry and strong arm Alan and Dave into making further concessions ever since while they continue to profit from the work, using their Alan’s name and reputation drive sales

Alan felt at the time that he had been cheated. That’s an appropriate way to characterise what was done, especially since he was clearly careful at the time contracts to be trying to agree a deal which prevented him from getting screwed in just the way they proceeded to subsequently. That they got their way through lawyering and exploiting a loophole in the deal by continually reprinting the book is a clear sign that they were actively attempting to deny him his rights and avoid honoring the original agreement so yes, while they retain the legal right to do as they like (for now), Alan would have a pretty good case in court, since DC clearly deviated from accepted industry practice at the time they made the agreement in an attempt to ignore it.

Gary, by the by, the Watchmen toy range never came out for the precise reason that DC do NOT own Watchmen lock stock and barrel, as you put it – they own the right to publish and republish the original work, they do NOT own right translate that work into any other medium, including merchandising in the form of action figures.

See, intellectual copyright law everyone who’s ever seen Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is familiar with. They get to publish the book and reprint the collection – that’s it.

The movie is a different set of rights altogether, and those are based on a piece of paper that Alan signed in the late 80s before he felt DC were screwing him over and have been fought over, sold, resold and argued over ever since, almost up to opening day on the movie. DC has those rights (via Warner Brothers and the parent company) and can produce derivative works and merchandising based on the movie and the likenesses of the characters seen in screen…. But anything clearly derived from Dave Gibbons artwork in the source material, rather than derived from the movie is strictly off-limits without Alan’s consent and approval, which is nor forthcoming.

Moreover, don’t you think that if they unambiguously *did* have the right to publish new Watchmen related material prior to the movie coming out, don’t you think they would have done it a long time ago? For 15 years, there was precious little Watchmen-related exploitation on their part other than continual reprints while they continued to successfully incorporated successive other characters and universes from the likes of Charlton, Fawcet, Wildstorm and Milestone and proceeded to make money off them and publish new stories ad nauseam. Why not Watchmen? The business case was certainly strong for it and Infinite Crisis for example would have been the perfect point at which to do it, along with the Wildstorm and Milestone characters. If Static, Blue Beetle, Captain Marvel and Majestic can be on the Justice League at various points, why not Doctor Manhatten? Other than the fact that it’s stupid, they didn’t have the legal right to do it. The movie gives them legal cover to attempt it.

I’ll get the collections, I really don’t need to see pre-original story heroes. I kinda like see the snips of that world, how it was handled in the original tho.

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