Robot 6

Quotes of the day | Alan Moore and Jim Lee on Before Watchmen

Minutemen art by Darwyn Cooke

“It seems a bit desperate to go after a book famous for its artistic integrity. It’s a finite series. Watchmen was said to actually provide an alternative to the superhero story as an endless soap opera. To turn that into just another superhero comic that goes on forever demonstrates exactly why I feel the way I do about the comics industry. It’s mostly about franchises.”

Alan Moore, reiterating to Fast Company his objections to DC Comics’ sprawling Before Watchmen prequels

“One of the key characteristics of the comic book medium is that it is not brought to life by just one voice. These universes are developed and evolved by multiple creative voices, over multiple generations. The influx of new stories is essential to keeping the universes relevant, current, and alive. Watchmen is a cornerstone of both DC Comics’ publishing history and its future. As a publisher, we’d be remiss not to expand upon and explore these characters and their stories. We’re committed to being an industry leader, which means making bold creative moves.”

– DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee in the same article, offering an alternate view

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35 Comments

“We’re committed to being an industry leader, which means making bold creative moves.”

The bolder move would be to leave it alone. Exploiting WATCHMEN for additional revenue is the antithesis of “bold.”

We’re committed to being an industry leader, which means making bold creative moves

Because nothing says “bold creative moves” like mining past successes ad infinitum. To think that Jim Lee was once the guy who was going to keep Alan Moore from having to deal with DC after he sold Wildstorm.

Watchmen is not a “universe,” any more than Maus is a “universe.” it’s a work with a beginning, a middle and an end, and DC should leave it alone.

Jinx, Rich. ;-)

I’m sorry – is Jim Lee known for saying profound things – or for being a weighty philosophical thinker??

Then why should I care about anything that he says. I like his drawings though

How about you commit yourselves to generating some new ideas, Jimmy? Doesn’t seem like you had one since America’s Best Comics, oh wait…

So prostituting a work of art is now “a bold move”? I’ve had bowel movements bolder than that.

Somebody tell Mr. Lee that “bold” does not mean the same thing as “predictable” or “mercenary”.

My favourite line from Moore is the one regarding Johnny Depp will be starring in a film treatment of Cap’n Crunch. Sad to say, but I would pay a fine dollar to see Johnny Depp as Cap’n Crunch.

These quotes aren’t necessarily contradictory. Moore is saying that DC is taking something that was unique in superhero storytelling (in that it was finite) and making it less unique. And Lee is basically saying “Yeah, it’s comics so we have to tell more stories.” The difference is Moore thinks it’s a bad thing and Lee doesn’t.

I’m not strongly in one camp or another on this debate – I might even buy Cooke’s Minutemen series – but Lee’s justifications just sit wrong with me. He’s implying that Watchmen can’t stay “alive” or “relevant” without any new stories about the characters. And that’s clearly BS. He sounds like a politician trying to dress up his greed in some sort of nobility.

I don’t fault DC for using something they own to make money, but I do fault them for pretending it’s something other than that (and before anyone gets upset at that, remember that this is an artistic gamble for DC, not a monetary one).

Come on guys! Jim Lee is the co-publisher of DC Comics…. his speech si normal

I agree with both.

The fact is, I never enjoyed the original, classic that it is. I consider it the perfect example of Mark Twain’s remark that a “classic” is a book that everyone wants to HAVE read, but no one enjoys READING.

I recognize it’s worth, but have no emotional connection to the story or the characters whatsoever. Whether they publish it or not, I won’t be checking it out.

@Chris

I loved Watchmen, and I don’t have a strong emotional connection to the characters either. I found most of them to be reprehensible. It’s the story / theme / structure that I admire more than anything.

“One of the key characteristics of the comic book medium is that it is not brought to life by just one voice.”

Wow. What an incredibly narrow view of the comic book medium.

Say what you want about it, these books will likely sell through the roof. That, at the end of the day, is pretty much the end goal of most corporations.

“The influx of new stories is essential to keeping the universes relevant, current, and alive.”

Yeah, you know, the lack of sequels to Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, and Slaughterhouse-Five sure has made those books irrelevant, dated and dead.

Doctor Manhattan: Thermodynamic miracles… events with odds against so astronomical they’re effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter… Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold… that is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermodynamic miracle.

Laurie Juspeczyk: But… if me, my birth, if that’s a thermodynamic miracle… I mean, you could say that about anybody in the world!

Dr. Manhattan: Yes. Anybody in the world… But the world is so full of people, so crowded with these miracles that they become commonplace and we forget… I forget. We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from another’s vantage point, as if new, it may still take our breath away. Come… dry your eyes. For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly. Dry your eyes… and let’s go home.

I’m just thinking about the reaction if an announcement came out that there were going to be new Calvin and Hobbes daily comic strips drawn by Stephen Pastis or Richard Thompson or whoever. (I know legally that can’t happen, but humor me).

I guess Jim Lee would say it was a “bold move” to keep those characters “alive” and “relevant” and that the syndicate would be “remiss” not to do it.

If the public doesn’t want these, they won’t buy them.

But something tells me the public WILL buy them…meaning there is an audience. As a company that is expected to make money, what would people have DC do? Ignore properties they own in order to keep the artistic integrity of a book intact? I don’t think that’s how companies work in this universe. Perhaps in the Watchmen universe…

I’m all for DC leaving Watchmen alone. But I’ll buy the new stuff if it’s well written and entertaining.

Michael P,
Since you mentioned Huck Finn, I have to mention that Huck Finn was itself a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. And there were two sequels after it: Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective.
But I don’t know if that helps or hurts this argument.
Personally, I dislike both the story and most of the characters in Watchmen. Where the book succeeds is in it’s story-telling structure. I don’t know if any other comic has tried to tell a story quite that way before or since. I can only hope that Before Watchmen is just as inovative (but I’m not sure that’s even possible to hope for).

@ Carlos

I can’t argue with your logic. It’s definitely the most pragmatic way to look at things.

It reminds me of a quote by the immortal J.R. Ewing: “Nobody every went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” DC definitely have that mindset in this case.

” We’re committed to being an industry leader, which means making bold creative moves.”

Yeah. I’ve always been curious on how IMAGE would’ve done WATCHMEN back in the ’90s…

How would The Comedian look with even more pouches? Who’d have a better trenchcoat/mask costume, Rorschach or Grifter? Are Silk Spectre’s boobs bigger than Voodoo’s?

Thanks to Lee and Harras now running the company, I guess I could find out. Thanks, DC!

(So I suppose this means that Lee’s NEVER gonna finish that 1963 Annual, then?)

Bicycle-Repairman

February 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I disagree with Jim Lee’s comments.

“One of the key characteristics of the comic book medium is that it is not brought to life by just one voice.”

Not all comics are ongoing monthly series produced by an assembly line. Lee is ignoring all the comics creators who write and draw their own work.

“These universes are developed and evolved by multiple creative voices, over multiple generations. The influx of new stories is essential to keeping the universes relevant, current, and alive.”

Not every work of art needs to get a sequel or be remade to be enjoyed by multiple generations. The original “Watchmen” has continuously been in print since it debuted in 1986. It’s still being read and it’s still relevant. Making prequels and sequels to “Watchmen” without Alan Moore is like making prequels and sequels to “Citizen Kane” without Orson Welles. “Watchmen” showed that super-hero comics could be more than just adventure serials that went on and on until they were cancelled for low sales. Lee sees “Watchmen” as just another property that DC can exploit.

“Watchmen is a cornerstone of both DC Comics’ publishing history and its future. As a publisher, we’d be remiss not to expand upon and explore these characters and their stories.”

Translation: “Watchmen has been a cash cow for DC for years and we’d be crazy not to milk it for every last cent.”

“We’re committed to being an industry leader, which means making bold creative moves.”

Bold moves? Like producing unnecessary prequels to a story that was published 26 years ago? Like retelling Superman’s origin for the umpteenth time? DC mostly just keeps rehashing the same old characters and stories.

My big questions to Moore remain:

What were you going to do once the rights back? You could have had them back, for the low “price” of getting an assload of money to do a prequel/sequel with complete creative freedom – wasn’t that what you were going to do anyways, just not with DC? Why are you complaining? Because you missed the boat?

How would you have felt had Len Wein thrown a fit when you took over Swamp Thing? How do you think this makes the creative teams feel, guys who’ve done absolutely nothing wrong to you, who just happen to be trying to support their families (most of these guys are married with kids)? Many of these guys idolized you, and you continue to hurt them with the sheer contempt you show for the project and the people involved. You NEVER do that to a fellow pro in the industry unless they personally wronged you. Good luck getting ANYONE to ever collaborate with you again. Whether or not you agree with DC’s decision (something well within their rights to do), at least give some support to the guys who are honestly only doing this because they want to do honor to you and the original story, and realize that if they don’t do it DC will probably hire someone less talented to do it.

For 25 years DC preserved the integrity of this series, and you’re complaining because they didn’t do it longer? Why? Are you literally pissed off 24/7 about everything not being perfect the way you want it? And you yourself said Watchmen was a project that you and Dave took on to show what makes comics unique, why they are a legitimate medium on par with TV, movies, etc. You know what makes comics unique over anything else? The endless nature of them! I still say the best thing would have been to immediately up with an issue #13 by Neil Gaiman, and lead into a run by him like Captain Britain and Miracle Man.

@Matt:
“How would you have felt had Len Wein thrown a fit when you took over Swamp Thing?”
He probably would have done the same thing when Wagner complained to him about the Judge Dredd/Batman crossover DC asked Moore to write: not do it.

“Many of these guys idolized you, and you continue to hurt them with the sheer contempt you show for the project and the people involved.”
“at least give some support to the guys who are honestly only doing this because they want to do honor to you and the original story,”

I partially agree with this, but if these guys truly idolized him and want to honor him then I doubt they’d be doing THE EXACT OPPOSITE of what their “idol” wants. It’s like saying you’re a devout Christian but instead of “turning the other cheek” you go out and start fights instead so you can honor Jesus.

“You know what makes comics unique over anything else? The endless nature of them!”
That’s a pretty shallow and limited view of comics. Plus, it ignores basically every other medium. Soap operas have been going on endlessly for over half a century. And radio dramas before that were serialized non-stop before tv took over. James Bond movies have been coming out pretty reliably for a while (and would still be if MGM weren’t having financial problems). Conan stories have been going for quite a while even after Robert E Howard’s death. But no, you’re right, that’s totally unique to comics. Only comic publishers know how to take advantage of their IPs.

Moore and Lee, unsurprisingly, see things differently. To my mind, Watchmen is a stand alone tale that isn’t based or attached to any pre existing set of characters or worlds. When Lee says that DC should explore the characters that they have, he’s right. The difference is that wasn’t the intent for Watchmen. Treating it like Superman, Batman, or the like not only cheapens Watchmen but Supes and the Dark Knight as well.
Continuing to tell stories with the regular stable of DCU/ Wildstorm characters is possible because while the name remains the same, each new creator can/ will put their own little spin on them.
As I’ve said, that wasn’t the intent for Watchmen. Watchmen was meant to be a look at superhero stories in comics – how their told and how their received. ” You want your capes and tights to be more real? Well, this is as real as the get!” What Moore nor DC knew was how big it would get and how long it would have an impact. Apparently, it’s impact is still felt today as if there is nothing after it. Guess there’s nothing after so let’s look at ” Before Watchmen.

RegularSyzedMike

February 15, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Nothing says “fresh” and “relevant” like rehashing characters created in the 80s…although for the super hero world that uses 70 year old characters I guess that is fresher than what they’re used to.

Bicycle-Repairman

February 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Matt: “How would you have felt had Len Wein thrown a fit when you took over Swamp Thing?”

You’re not the first person to compare “Before Watchmen” to Moore writing “Swamp Thing”, but it’s a false analogy. Wein was the editor of “The Saga of the Swamp Thing” when he chose Moore to replace Martin Pasko as the writer of the series. Moore thinks the “Watchmen” prequels are a bad idea but people are doing them anyway.

Wow. DC should publish a new comic called Jim Lee: Corporate Shill. What an empty barrage of corporate speak.

Just like the whole Before Watchmen project, totally disappointing.

Micheal P & Earth-2 Chad hit the nail on the head.

Fuck this fanfiction for fanboys BY fanboys.

Man, Lee doesn’t get it. What made Watchmen SPECIAL was that it WAS a singular thing, that it WAS the work of one team. It was a SINGULAR thing.

Now, Watchmen is just another property. Another IP to exploited. Hooray for DC!

Family Guy on Watchmen:

Peter-There’s just one secret I feel I have to share with you–I did not care for Watchmen.

Lois-What?!?

Peter-Did not care for Watchmen. (Lois-Ugh?)

Chris-How can you even say that, dad?

Peter-Did-didn’t like it.

Lois-Peter, it’s so good, it’s like the perfect comic book. (Peter-eh, the…)

Peter-I, this is what everyone always says. Whenever they say, it’s like “o my…”

Chris-Dave Gibbons, John Higgins, (Peter-I) I mean you never see (Peter-Listen) ALAN MOORE!!

Peter-I know ?#%&*?! fine, fine writer, did not like the book.

Brian-Why not?

Peter-Did not-could not get into it.

Lois-Explain yourself. (Peter-It) What didn’t you like about it?

Peter-It insists upon itself, Lois.

Lois-What?

Peter-It insists upon itself.

Lois-What does that even mean?

Chris-’Cause it has a valid point, SEVERAL of them, to make, IT’S INSISTING!

Peter-It’s got a really bleak atmosphere, takes forever getting in, you spend nearly 10 and a half pages, and then–you know, I can’t even get through it, I can’t even finish the book, I’ve never even read the ending.

Chris-YOU’VE NEVER READ THE ENDING?!?!?

Stewie-W-well, how can you even say you don’t like it if you haven’t given it a chance?

Lois-I agree with Stewie, it’s not really fair. (Chris-It’s outrageous.)

Peter-I have tried on many separate occasions to get through it, and I…I get to the part where the blue naked guy and the lady are on Mars, (Lois-YEAH! It’s a great scene) and he…(Lois-I love that part)…it’s NOT a great part…(Chris-It’s been noted in every annal) I have NO IDEA what they’re getting at, it’s like they’re trying to sneak a–that’s where I lose interest and put the book down.

Lois-You know what Peter?

Chris-THEY’RE BEING METAPHYSICAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL!!!

Lois-The conversation they’re having has a lot of subtle meanings, something you don’t concieve very well nor understand.

Peter-I love Mark Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme–that is my answer to that statement.

Lois-Exactly.

Peter-Well, there you go.

Lois-Whatever.

Chris-I like that book too.

Did that actually air on Family Guy? Somehow, I doubt it, because that sequence seems to be far too long to have ever aired on Family Guy, which seems to be written for people with the attention span of gnats.

As fanfic, it’s really lame. If it’s real, I’m shocked. There must have been inserted random gags to appease the gnat brained Family Guy fans.

Bicycle-Repairman

February 16, 2012 at 9:26 am

Acer’s comments were based on a segment from “Family Guy” except instead of talking about the comic books “Watchmen” and “Squadron Supreme” they were talking about the movies “The Godfather” and “The Money Pit”.

@DrunkJack
What Bicycle-Repairman said. It’s just a parody I did, it’s not even fanfic. This is me metaphorically expressing how I don’t even like the Watchmen story (and my idea of Peter’s feelings on it). On the subject of the Moore vs DC thing, it seems to me the only logical solution to ending this stupid grudge is for DC to buck up and give up Watchmen. I don’t care if it was one of their biggest money-makers, maybe it’s time they did something else to generate revenue that doesn’t cause 25-year old grudges to be held by angry creators.

This is not a disagreement between two creators. Lee is only a part-time maker of comics at this point. This is just corporate speak from a company man. What’s he supposed to say? “We know this won’t be as good as Watchmen and there’s no creative reason to do it, but my job is to make money for DC and whether the books are any good or not is only an occasional bonus.” Lee is just a suit who can draw nice tits.

only works matters, only works earn respect to an author.

Watchmen was a finite work, it was one project, one story, one thing. Its theme are ALL answered in the story. The beginning, reason and ending of the “minutemen” are in the whole watchmen story.

there are nothing more to add, only noise (geeky stuff about past or whatever chocolate some old character likes..)

I would prefer newer stories, bold creative stuff, maybe something without masks (!) , something with a beginning and a definitive END. Something when I close it, I can say “it was beautiful, it told me something”.

everything else is noise.

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