Robot 6

The Before Watchmen controversy in a nutshell

Brian Truitt has a nice backgrounder on the Before Watchmen controversy at USA Today that allows both sides to state their case. If you’re just tuning in, on the eve of the sprawling prequel’s debut, this will save you a lot of time. The basic question: Should DC Comics create a prequel to Alan Moore’s Watchmen despite his opposition to the project?

DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio: “The strength of what comics are is building on other people’s legacies and enhancing them and making them even stronger properties in their own right.”

Former DC writer Chris Roberson: “Watchmen is a book, complete in one volume, with a beginning, middle and end. The continued attempts to recontextualize it as a ‘franchise’ or a ‘universe’ are, I think, part of the problem.”

Darwyn Cooke, one of the Before Watchmen creators, also observes that Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons does support the new books, and that his voice should not be ignored. (Cooke is also spotlighted in a separate article about the Before Watchmen: Minutemen miniseries, which debuts Wednesday.)

Still not heard from: Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum and J.M. Barrie on how they feel about Moore’s reuse of their characters in Lost Girls.

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Comments

52 Comments

Ugh. That stupid “Lost Girls” canard again?

I guess if you keep shouting that false equivalency you might convince…I don’t know…yourself, I suppose, but it won’t make it any more relevant to the issue at hand.

I’m not sure the Watchmen/Lost Girls analogy holds up.

Before Watchmen looks and feels like Watchmen. It’s published by the same company. When the comics are collected in trades they will be on the shelf next to Watchmen.

No one is going to walk into Barnes and Noble looking for a copy of Through The Looking Glass and accidentally leave with a $75 pornographic comic with a different name.

Glenn Simpson

June 5, 2012 at 9:18 am

Regardless of where I might stand on the issue, I thought it was all being very admirably fair and balanced until the little jab at the end. I suggest deleting that and then this any any other posts recommending you do so, and pretend it never happened.

*shrug* The characters are owned by DC, if there’s a demand for it, they can do what they want.

The only difference between “Before Watchmen” and DCnU’s Alan Scott reboot is that Martin Nodell and Bill Finger are dead, and Alan Moore isn’t.

While the Public Domain of the Lost Girls characters may not be directly comparable to the corporate owned Alan Moore created Watchmen characters, the comparison does hold SOME value. Moore could have used some new original characters for Lost Girls, but he didn’t, he used these classic literature characters, but no one is hounding him for that, same with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Again, much of the characters are public domain, but the latest chapter of the current series of League featured characters from Harry Potter, Slow Chocolate Autopsy, Performance, and the old Avengers television series, and those aren’t all public domain last I checked. Again though, no one is hounding him for that either.

I also am pretty sure that the Before Watchmen trades are going to have BEFORE WATCHMEN all over the cover, so I don’t think anyone is going to mistake them for the actual Watchmen trade.

I can imagine readers new to comics, who have heard about this great comic called Watchmen, going to a bookstore to pickup the original trade and getting confused.

To put it another way, if I showed my non-comic reading friends an issue of Before Watchmen, Watchmen, and Alan Moore written issues of Promethea and Supreme and asked which ones had the same creator I’m sure they would choose the two books with the similar look, similar corporate logo and similar title.

DC is capitalizing on what Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons created, which is their right and for all I know might end up being the greatest comic of all time. But it strikes me as very different from what Alan Moore has done with other creator’s characters.

I think the analogy would be if Alan Moore wrote a book called “Before Harry Potter” that had the distinct look of a Harry Potter book and sat on the shelf in the bookstore next to the other Harry Potter books.

“The only difference between “Before Watchmen” and DCnU’s Alan Scott reboot is that Martin Nodell and Bill Finger are dead, and Alan Moore isn’t.”

No, the difference here is Green Lantern was created to be a serial character, was meant to continue on and neither Finger nor Nodell said anything different in it’s over 50 years of existence.

Alan Moore has stated for almost 3 decades that Watchmen is a self contained work, and that there is no need for any further exploration of the characters, it is finite, a one story concept and doing any more with it is milking a dead cow.

DC has said “Fuck Moore, we own it, we’ll do what we want.”

It is ENTIRELY legal. Despite the maleficence by which DC has kept ownership. Moore signed the contract knowing that few books were ever kept in perpetual print, DC changed the entire paradigm of comic book publishing to keep Watchmen.

Before Watchmen ethically questionable, and morally repugnant.

But perfectly legal.Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s right, you can legally do a lot of things, but morally or ethically they can still be wrong.

@MAD

spot on

Well said, Drunk Jack. And people, please stop with the Lost Girls/League of Extraordinary Gentlemen straw man arguments.

“Moore signed the contract knowing that few books were ever kept in perpetual print, DC changed the entire paradigm of comic book publishing to keep Watchmen.”

And this seems to be the crux of the matter. What the pro-Moore camp consistently leave out is that DC signed that contract not expecting the book to be kept in perpetual print either. But they subsquently found that the book continued to make money, they continued to send royalty payments to both Messrs. Moore and Gibbons. And, if I’m not mistaken, DC even went to Alan Moore with a proposal to update the contract which, due to the terms, which Moore felt were non-negotiable, he rejected. I am not, however, aware of any article or interview that mentions Mr. Moore going to DC and asking to renegotiate or update the contract. So, I just don’t buy the argument that DC is part of an evil corporation that is taking advantage of an innocent artist.

I genuinely like most of Alan Moore’s comics output. I believe he is a true talent and has a genius for stories told in words and images. I want him treated with respect and fairness. But I just think he is in the wrong in this instance.

Ugh! That “Lost Girls” remark at the end of the article made it very, very partial. Is DC paying you?

“I can imagine readers new to comics, who have heard about this great comic called Watchmen, going to a bookstore to pickup the original trade and getting confused.”

—so it’s reader confusion that has you worried? what a crock.

That Lost Girls comment does stand out.

That being said, why is it that whenever someone may have a stance that is not 100% Pro-Alan Moore their arguments are “canards” or “strawmen”? Ethically neither side is 100% in the right. Legally, DC is well within their rights, as is Alan Moore with Public Domain characters. Ethically both sides start losing ground pretty quickly.

And let’s not forget the Great Ormond Street Hospital was none too pleased with Moore’s use of their characters: http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/top_shelf_settles_lost_girls_situation_with_great_ormand_street_hospital/
but that didn’t stop him or Top Shelf.

C Michael Hall

June 5, 2012 at 10:55 am

I have yet to see anyone fully and convincingly explain why Lost Girls/League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are any different than what’s being done with the Watchmen characters.

While Moore uses (mostly) public domain characters in those works, their creators’ would likely be quite displeased with how he handles them, and though his use is legal, if they were alive to complain, they might well do so. So if we’re going to blast Before Watchmen on moral grounds rather than legal ones, I’m failing to see much difference between the situations.

Additionally, most of the writers whose characters Moore borrows (again, quite legally, for the most part) probably felt their characters’ stories had already been satisfactorily told, with beginnings, middles, an ends. Again, not much difference here, especially if the whole argument is going to be couched in terms of a moral stand taken to uphold creators’ rights.

(And, as a footnote, Moore has not always said that Watchmen should be a self-contained story; initially, he was in favor of–and even suggested–spin-offs, including those done for the old DC Heroes RPG, which he allowed to be written by someone else and endorsed! Granted, he has since changed his mind, and that is definitely worth taking into consideration. It is also worth noting, though, that he has not ALWAYS been against them, though I’ve seen some people suggest he is. He only soured on the idea once he was miffed at DC. As I said, though, that’s a footnote.)

Now before anyone gets the wrong idea, I don’t really CARE…I don’t plan on reading Before Watchmen. I’d rather read NEW characters, and to be honest, not superheroes. I’m just waiting for someone to craft an argument against the alleged “straw man” of the Lost Girls/League of Extraordinary Gentlemen justification that isn’t itself a bit of a straw man. If someone can better explain the anti-Before Watchmen position and do so in a way that is both rational and not just snark as a placeholder for legitimate argument, it’s an argument I’d REALLY like to see expressed so I can better understand it.

^^^ Excellent sarcasm radar, Internet. Good job.

The Lost Girls comment is my favorite part of this article, so thank you for making at least me smile.

The analogy holds directly because of Moore’s argument. He doesn’t state anything about whether the Watchmen characters are in the public domain or trade dressed like the original Watchmen story. He specifically complains that the story is told with an already established beginning, middle, and end.

In this regard, so are the works of Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum and J.M. Barrie. Therefore, Moore is in direct conflict of his own moral high ground. Despite their already established legal rights, D.C. is neither ethically questionable, and morally repugnant in this according to Moore’s own principles.

So, all of Moore’s bitching should be completely disregarded in light of his extreme hypocrisy.

“I can imagine readers new to comics, who have heard about this great comic called Watchmen, going to a bookstore to pickup the original trade and getting confused.”

“—so it’s reader confusion that has you worried? what a crock.”

my point is that dc is capitalizing on what alan moore/dave gibbons created in a different way than a) moore capitalizes on characters he uses in League/Lost Girls and b) typical comics reboots capitalize on earlier incarnations.

@“The strength of what comics are is building on other people’s legacies and enhancing them and making them even stronger properties in their own right.”

What a load of crap. That’s not the “strength of what comics are.” One only has to open a copy of Love and Rockets, King City, Maus, Akira, Watchmen or any number of excellent works (some even published by DC) to learn what the strengths of comics are. But that would require a modicum of artistic insight greater than what this gibbering corporate mouthpiece is capable of.

“The strength of what comics are is building on other people’s legacies and enhancing them and making them even stronger properties in their own right.”

Wow. What a horrible understanding of the medium and a perfect summation of what’s wrong with the industry.

The reason Gibbons is cool with this is that he’s probably getting paid for these “promotions“ and Moore is not. The approval quote read pretty weak and his comments from intervies while promoting Secret Servoce seems he strongly thinks otherwise.

The Boy With A Herve Villechaize Tattoo

June 5, 2012 at 12:37 pm

You think people are b!#*hin’ now over the prequels. Wait until the eventual sequels…….you KNOW it’ll happen! ;)

It isn’t about public domain. The reason why Lost Girls is different from Before Watchmen is the intent of both of the works. Dan Didio clearly says what the intent of Before Watchmen is. To exploit Watchmen as intellectual property. That isn’t the point of Lost Girls. Alan Moore isn’t making money off people believing he is writing sequels to beloved work. He is commentating on that work. Something that has been done since the beginning of literature if people bother to pick up books sometimes that don’t have pictures in them.

“The strength of what comics are is building on other people’s legacies and enhancing them and making them even stronger properties in their own right.”

Wow. What a horrible understanding of the medium and a perfect summation of what’s wrong with the industry.
_________________________________________________________________________________________

Exactly. That is like saying the strength of movies are all about finding tentpole films and exploitable properties. It is a cold, very callous way of describing the medium that has nothing to do with art.

“Regardless of where I might stand on the issue, I thought it was all being very admirably fair and balanced until the little jab at the end. I suggest deleting that and then this any any other posts recommending you do so, and pretend it never happened.”

I love how desperate people are to pretend Alan Moore isn’t an erotic fanfic writer.

Thank you, C Michael Hall for speaking the truth and nothing but.

DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio: “The strength of what comics are is building on other people’s legacies and enhancing them and making them even stronger properties in their own right.”

This can easily turn mainstream comics into fan fiction. I’d rather see what a creator does next than watch one try to recapture another’s original lighting in a bottle.

The reason the Lost Girls (or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) analogy is a straw man argument is because Lost Girls and LoEG are not done as sequels, expansions or untold tales from the original works. Lost Girls and LoEG place existing characters in a new, expanded universe.

They are not sequels or prequeals.

Calling them ‘fanfic’ is a fair shot, but they do not really compare with Before Watchmen.

If Moore complained about a Batman/Spider-Man team up where Rorschach appeared and said the story about him being killed was false, then the Lost Girls comparison would work, but that is not the situation we are discussing.

“Still not heard from: Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum and J.M. Barrie on how they feel about Moore’s reuse of their characters in Lost Girls.”

Good to see that robot6 provide this snarky rejoinder on the subject of BEFORE WATCHMEN!

DC thanks you for providing a counterargument to all the criticisms of their project and thus staying “Fair and Balanced”[tm FNN] on the BW reportage; the company’s banner ads WILL continue to appear on the site…

@Ian Boothby: Mainstream American comics have been fan fiction for decades. Everything from Dark Knight Returns on up to the current DC management’s fetishization of the comics they read when they were kids.

@Everybody criticizing the Lost Girls false equivalence: Hey, let’s give Brigid the benefit of the doubt; maybe her point is that there is a fundamental difference between long-dead authors who are not around to voice opinions and still-living ones who are actually vocally opposed to things.

Hey, it could happen, right?

C Michael Hall

June 5, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I find the whole “Moore isn’t writing sequels or prequels” differentiation to be a bit of a reach. After all, we’re still talking about recycled characters. We’re still talking about the use of someone else’s characters in ways those creators might not care to see them used. We’re still talking about stories that, whether or not they’re purported to be sequels/prequels or presented in a new shared universe, are still telling stories beyond the confines of the original narrative(s) constructed by their creators, which again, their original creators may have objected to just as vehemently as Moore objects to this sort of thing, “new, expanded universe” or no.

The assertion that what Moore does exists as commentary, and is thus defensible from a literary standpoint, is the stronger argument. The problem, though, is that’s a philosophical position, one which hinges on some nebulous definitions and assumptions. For example, let’s say Moore’s derivative works ARE excusable because they comment on the works from which they’re derived, and that their function as commentary legitimizes them. OK…so what’s to say Before Watchmen doesn’t comment on the phenomenon of Watchmen itself, thus excusing it too? DiDio suggests that he sees derivative works (including sequels and prequels) as an indicator of one of comics’ strengths; isn’t he then making a statement which, right or wrong, makes the entire series itself a bit of a commentary on what comics are about/for?

I’m not saying that’s the case. I’m just saying that if we’re going to argue in these contextual and philosophical terms, DC’s stance is just as defensible as Moore’s, since both arguments are predicated on linguistic constructs, not constructs of fact or evidence. The end product may suck, but that’s irrelevant…I still haven’t seen an argument which definitively differentiates Moore’s endeavors from DC’s.

C Michael Hall

June 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm

(And for the record, I would contend that 90% of mainstream comics, Moore’s included, ARE fan-fiction; some are just better-written, more intelligent fan-fiction than others. But they’re still fan-fiction. The storytelling toolbox is still filled with the same tools that’ve been in it for decades.)

It’s not an either/or argument. They’re both distinctions between the intentions of Moore and DC and if art isn’t about intent, then what is it about? And if the grand artistic point behind these prequels is that art doesn’t matter as much as commercial exploitation, then that might be another reason why these feel like they are covered in a thin layer of slime. But somehow I don’t think that is the message that creators like Cooke and Azzarello are trying to send out.

C Michael Hall

June 5, 2012 at 3:52 pm

OK, let’s run with intentions, then.

If Cooke and Azzarello (and company) feel they’re creating a worthwhile product which tells a story worth telling, and which serves as a worthy implementation of Moore’s characters, wouldn’t that make Before Watchmen ethically defensible? If their intent is to create comics worth reading, and they feel the Watchmen characters have as-yet-untapped potential for commentary and/or entertainment, is that not noble intent? DC has the legal right to do these comics, and they’re going to do them, regardless of who writes and draws the books; therefore, one could argue that well-intentioned creators are doing the same thing with Moore’s creations (telling new stories without consent of their creators) as Moore does in his own derivative works. The only difference in this case would be, again, that Moore is still alive to complain.

Granted, DiDio may only want to exploit the material (his statement can certainly be read that way!), but who cares: he’s just the businessman who, at most, creates opportunities (i.e. places in the publishing schedule) for actual creators. He isn’t writing/drawing the books. So unless his crass, commercial intent is shared by the actual creators, it’s irrelevant.

Again, I have no intention of reading this series. I’m just playing a little devil’s advocate here, hoping it will lead someone to present that ironclad argument I have yet to read.

You’re switching the argument. It’s not about whether the participants goals are noble. It is about what the intentions for the work are and how that distinguishes works like Before Watchmen or Spider-Man #154 from Lost Girls. They’re not intended to be the same thing and they really aren’t the same thing and comparing them to each other in a false equivalency shows a lack of literary knowledge.

As for the artists and writers involved, I am sure they are intending to make good comics. Most of the creators are very talented people who I wish were working on their own original concepts and stories, but are great at their craft nonetheless. And the few notable exceptions are, surely, going to try and make good comics, too. Rob Liefeld probably thinks he is making good comic books. Intent of quality isn’t the issue here. It’s the intent and nature of the books. These creators didn’t come to Dan Didio and say “We have a great series that will comment on Watchmen…” They were approached by DC to further develop Watchmen as a property and accepted. They’re taking steps to make Watchmen more like Superman, Batman and the other IP they own. This isn’t Lost Girls. It’s not LOEG. Or at least it isn’t being marketed and presented as such. Maybe the work is something new…a sterling parody of some sort….but I sincerely doubt it.

C Michael Hall

June 5, 2012 at 4:48 pm

I’m not switching the argument (nor did college and grad school fail to instill in me the literary knowledge you seem to think I’m lacking). I was trying to make sense of your assertions re: intent, and how intent is relevant to the argument, and posited some implementations which seemed to fit with the context you were using the concept of intent. This is how discourse happens: we both use language, and because language is imperfect, it is open to interpretation. Now, you’ve clarified somewhat your conception of intent: you see it not as an issue of quality, but in your own words, as “the intent and nature of the books.” OK, let’s run with that.

You’re assuming that because these creators didn’t generate the project that they cannot have hit upon ideas which, like Moore’s derivative works, comment upon the source work. But Cooke says he initially rejected the idea until it occurred to him just what kind of story he had to tell! Does the fact that he was only inspired after being offered job negate any potential for his idea to be as legitimate as Moore’s? Does the fact that he was inspired by corporate-owned characters mean he CANNOT create an important work? That strikes me as being a bit short-sighted, especially given how many meaningful works (Watchmen included) which used or were inspired by other people’s characters (though, to be fair, he wasn’t offered those jobs first…although I’d like to know when we adopted “rules” for what inspiration is legitimate and what inspiration isn’t).

Perhaps the COMPANY’s intent is to make money; perhaps in the COMPANY’s eyes, the nature of the book is solely as perpetuation of the property. But if the creators have intents which are content-based, doesn’t that change the nature of the books?

(Footnote: To address the statement “it isn’t being market and presented as such,” well, what marketing departments do isn’t really what creators do, is it? How many books and films are inappropriately marketed in ways that have nothing to do with the creators’ intent, or which fail to encapsulate the purpose of the work being marketed? Does this automatically affect the work, somehow lessening its value because someone, not the author, marketed it in a “bad” way? Marketing isn’t really worth considering when discussing the INHERENT value of a piece of intellectual art.)

Do you consider Air Pirates the same thing as a Disney (company) produced Mickey Mouse comic?

I am truly impressed that Brigid thinks she dropped some awesome bomb with her ‘Lost Girls’ dig, but all she really proved is that she literally doesn’t understand the point of what she just wrote a story about.

For the last time, Brigid: Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum and J.M. Barrie were able to decide what they did with their own creations until the day they died. They never had to beg a giant company to not make awful spin-offs based on their creations, after that same creation used contractual loopholes to steal their copyrights. See the difference?

3 variant covers for Minutemen #1, including a polybag. 35 different prequel issues for a series that was originally only 12 issues. Yeah – this isn’t a cash grab

C Michael Hall

June 5, 2012 at 6:10 pm

TheCloser: No, that would be stupid. They are not the same thing. But it’s interesting that you use that comparison…

There aren’t really any great Mickey comics, but there ARE great, and I do mean great Disney comics. I consider some of Barks’ duck stories every bit as important as Air Pirates. Air Pirates may well have been forgotten, like any number of satirical/parody comics over the years, if not for its unfortunate status as the poster child for corporations being able to attack their critics and win. The duck stories, on the other had, are–despite their corporate origins–legitimate masterpieces of the cartoonist’s art. They’ve been cited as such by scholars of the comics form for decades. Heck, I use them as texts in the course I teach on comics and cartooning. So I would actually look at Barks as a PRIME example of corporate comics the masterful execution of which completely trumped their corporate origins. As such, they support the point I’m trying to make: the company’s intent for the work does not define the nature of the work; the work of the creators defines its nature. Companies only care about money; no publisher is in the business of losing money on high art. Which is why, in terms of quality (i.e. creative validity), only the craft matters…not the ownership.

You’re basing your whole argument on what works are intended to be, and their nature (a combination of origin and intent), but what intent matters apart from authorial intent? I agree with you that creator-owned works are generally more creatively significant than corporate ones, but that’s not an absolute truth. And if valid intent=commentary of some kind, then isn’t any work which comments in a meaningful way on something a work possessed of valid intent?

I’m not here to argue the validity of corporate owned comics versus creator owned comics. Watchmen itself is a corporate owned comic. Nobody is saying that these can’t be good comics because they are corporately owned.

What people are saying is it is intellectually dishonest to say that Lost Girls is the same thing as Before Watchmen. Just like Air Pirates isn’t the same thing as the Barks Donald Duck comics. I find Barks far superior to Air Pirates, but that’s completely divorced from the point at hand. I can’t speak to the quality of Before Watchmen because I haven’t read it. I like Cooke. I like Azzarello. I like a lot of the artists involved. They could be awesome comics. But the quality of the comics doesn’t mean anything.

These were intended by the corporation that owns Watchmen to further and be a part of Alan Moore’s story. Alan Moore didn’t intend for Lost Girls to be a part of Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland or the Wizard of Oz. Carl Barks intends his work to be part of the Donald Duck legend. The creator behind Air Pirates doesn’t really think the same thing and the works show that intent. To play the hypocrite card to defend DC is just an easy way out.

Maybe I’m biased in that I think we are in the last few years of comic book publishing as we have known it in our lifetimes, but I think DC would have been horribly negligent to not attempt to capitalize while they still publish comic books.

C Michael Hall

June 5, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Believe me, I have no interest in defending DC, and I remind you, I have no intention of reading these books. The last thing we need is a prequel to a masterpiece, and I’m not that interested in superhero comics anyway. But I do feel Moore IS acting a bit of the hypocrite. That doesn’t justify DC’s actions, but it does undermine Moore’s moral high ground and make me wonder if Moore’s defenders aren’t just as myopic as DC’s.

You wrote, “These were intended by the corporation that owns Watchmen to further and be a part of Alan Moore’s story. Alan Moore didn’t intend for Lost Girls to be a part of Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland or the Wizard of Oz.” Understood. The stance you’ve taken is that while DC is continuing Moore’s work without his consent (which, despite their legal right to do so, IS arguably unethical in light of the original contract’s spirit, if not its letter…I’ll agree there), Moore creates works wholly separate from the legacies of the creators on whose work he draws. The problem, though, is that difference isn’t nearly as clearly-delineated as you assert it to be. If they were alive, would the creators of the characters Moore has borrowed would agree that he isn’t continuing their work (i.e. exploiting their legacy)? If the characters are creatively valuable because of their prior existence, doesn’t that demonstrate the exploitation of a legacy of work, and therefore an arguable continuation of said work? Alan Quatermain is only useful because he’s Alan Quatermain; no, LOEG isn’t a canonical Quatermain book, but it’s still a book starring Alan Quatermain, a character who was only useful in the first place because of his existing literary history. So no, LOEG isn’t a continuation, but it’s damned sure an exploitation (albeit a legal one).

The whole continuation angle only matters if DC’s assertions that Before Watchmen is canonical somehow affects the work that was Watchmen. That’s nonsense; readers don’t have to view Before Watchmen as “canonical” any more than readers of King Solomon’s Mines need to read LOEG. Watchmen doesn’t cease to be if the prequels are done; no more than Stoker’s Dracula ceases to be through Moore’s use of Mina Harker…no more than King Solomon’s Mines ceases to be through Moore’s use of Quatermain. Once a work exists, its niche in literary history can’t be easily erased, even through crappy after-the-fact sequels/prequels.

Besides, Moore says he hasn’t cared about Watchmen for years! Of course, in the next sentence he condemns anyone even reading Before Watchmen because to read it is to violate is wishes. Which is the true sentiment? If the first part is true, then we should care about neither the alleged continuation of his work, nor his condemnation of the Before Watchmen project, its creators, and its readers. And if the first part is NOT true, then Moore is a hypocrite who does the same thing DC is doing (using the characters of others; creating new stories their creators didn’t intend to tell), which makes his moral position just as questionable as DC’s.

To excuse his work by saying he doesn’t intend it as a continuation, well, I’d counter THAT is the easy way out. I don’t think it’s intellectually dishonest to say Lost Girls and Before Watchmen are similar, at least on certain levels; I think the argument that they aren’t is a rather tenuous one that seems dependent on some very selective interpretations of language. Is a derivative continuation any different than a derivative reinvention? Perhaps marginally, but there’s a reason Moore prefers to use characters in the public domain: that marginal difference on which this (essentially exceptionalist) stance is based wouldn’t stand up in court.

But you’ve stated your position, and for that I thank you. You even did it without being overtly insulting (though language such as “easy way out” and “lack of literary knowledge” sounded pretty passive/aggressive and typical of Moore’s ardent fans, I gave you the benefit of the doubt). I see where you’re coming from. I may disagree that there’s any major difference between Moore and DC, but I respect the thought that’s gone into your argument.

Steven R. Stahl

June 5, 2012 at 9:15 pm

The problem I see with BEFORE WATCHMEN is that the treatment of the characters is consistent with the fetishization of superhero characters generally. Normally, characters are simply elements in a story, and contribute to the success of the story; in DC and Marvel superhero comics, the title character is generally more important than the story as such, which is merely a stage for him to perform on.

Extracting the characters from WATCHMEN for the prequels degrades them, in the sense that they’re being treated as toys and as marketable products, not as elements to be appreciated in WATCHMEN. The intentions of the writers doing the BEFORE WATCHMEN prequels don’t matter, since they can’t enhance Moore’s creations. They’re not him.

I haven’t read LOST GIRLS, although I read an ImageTexT roundtable discussion about it, and Moore’s literary use of the characters refutes criticism simply of the use of them.

SRS

before maxwell the magic cat

Before Maxwell the Magic Cat

BEFORE MAXWELL THE MAGIC CAT

@C Michael Hall

BRAVO. Very well put. I couldn’t agree more.

“The whole continuation angle only matters if DC’s assertions that Before Watchmen is canonical somehow affects the work that was Watchmen. That’s nonsense; readers don’t have to view Before Watchmen as “canonical” any more than readers of King Solomon’s Mines need to read LOEG. Watchmen doesn’t cease to be if the prequels are done; no more than Stoker’s Dracula ceases to be through Moore’s use of Mina Harker…no more than King Solomon’s Mines ceases to be through Moore’s use of Quatermain. Once a work exists, its niche in literary history can’t be easily erased, even through crappy after-the-fact sequels/prequels”

If we are going by what readers can consider ‘canon’, it becomes kind of meaningless. As a reader, I can decide that certain chapters aren’t canonical. I can consider Huckleberry Finn as completely separate from Tom Sawyer. I can say that a single issue of Spider-Man or Batman didn’t count because I didn’t like it. That’s the power of a reader. But I can no more say that Before Watchmen isn’t intended to affect the work that is Watchmen anymore than I can say that the Star Wars prequels weren’t intended to affect Star Wars or that the Matrix sequels didn’t affect the Matrix. A niche in history can certainly be affected by crappy after-the-fact sequels and prequels and it has happened several times in the past. And the reason why is they are intended to do so. If I say that I don’t like the new Indiana Jones movie, that doesn’t change the fact that the new Indiana Jones movie exists and is intended to continue the story. If I say that it doesn’t count because I don’t like it, I would be in the minority. And we are talking about a fanbase obsessed with making things fit, so I don’t think the majority of the people are just going to pretend that these books don’t count as they are clearly ‘designed’. That is a different design than Lost Girls or LOEG. King Soloman’s Mines is not affected as nobody that reads that book believes that Moore’s story about Quartermainn teaming up with monsters to fight Martians has anything to do with the original work.

Here is the simple fact. If J.K. Rowling got a terrible contract and didn’t own Harry Potter and the publisher/studio decided to do an extra movie/book without her permission, calling it the next chapter of the Harry Potter saga, directly continuing the adventures of the characters therein, keeping with the themes present in Rowling’s work…that work, like it or not, for the majority of people would be an official sequel to Harry Potter. Despite the fact that, according to Rowling, the work is complete.

But if after a few decades, dubiously assuming Rowling’s books are still held in the esteem they are now, somebody wrote a book where a middle-aged Harry Potter goes through a “Run Rabbit Run” type mid-life crisis, using that book to comment on the original works, but clearly not intended as a direct sequel…that would be a different thing altogether, wouldn’t it?

People don’t consider “Hook” a true sequel to Peter Pan. If I wrote a book where a cyborg travelled back in time to help Huck Finn and Jim in their journey in order to comment on Twain, people wouldn’t believe that was a true sequel because it wouldn’t be intended as such. “Fables” is not a sequel to the fairy tales mentioned. The Air Pirates cartoons aren’t the same thing as Mickey Mouse. Since we’re talking about hypocrisy, intent matters. You can’t truly be a hypocrite for doing something different than what you are complaining about.

Superman_is_not_real

June 6, 2012 at 8:52 am

So, I’ve been following this debate for weeks and it’s just getting ridiculous: If you don’t like/approve/care about it, the solution is extremely simple: don’t buy it.

@ C. Michael Hall – brilliant points, excellent argument. Game, set and match!

Totally the same thing. Also, how does J.K. Rowling like Moore using Voldemort in his latest League Book (http://www.revolutionsf.com/bb/weblog_entry.php?e=2968) I wonder? Kudos Mr. Moore, very very cool…

It’s like people who love the book series for “A Game of Thrones” who angrily lament the TV series’ differences. Seriously? One doesn’t affect the other. The same can be said about V for Vendetta and the Watchmen movies.

I like Moore as much as the next guy but, let’s be honest, Watchmen isn’t the greatest comic ever written (I’d like to venture that Moore’s Miracleman is). Sure, people refer to it like it’s the “Citizen Kane” of comics, but in the end it’s a very good story but not a sacred text. If people want to read and reread it they still can. So what if there are prequels. Who cares. Move on.

Jim Lee and Didio are trying to revitalize the company. Good for them. Flex Mentallo finally seeing a repritn is great – score!

One thing’s for sure: Everyone knows about Before Watchman and DC now! Any publicity is good publicity. Before Watchmen getting publicity is good for comics as a whole.

Cheers!

I find it hard to believe that someone would look at the annotations in LOEG and not get what makes it different than Before Watchmen.

Steven R. Stahl

June 6, 2012 at 9:50 am

@ C. Michael Hall – brilliant points, excellent argument. Game, set and match!

Hardly. Hall doesn’t distinguish between the use of characters in a standalone story–Moore’s WATCHMEN–and the characters as the foundations for endless serials. WATCHMEN exists without the prequels; the prequels can’t exist without WATCHMEN. WATCHMEN, as a complete story, is greater than the characters in it; in BEFORE WATCHMEN, the stories are secondary to the marketability of the characters.

Endlessly serialized characters can be used as characters in close-ended stories at any time, although doing so might affect readers’ acceptance of them in subsequent stories. A character in a good close-ended story can’t be changed to a character in an endless serial without damaging him.

Adults can have their toys, and play with them, and make money playing with them, but they shouldn’t confuse playing with toys with creating art.

SRS

@The Closer

Your JK Rowling analogy. Lol – hardly. I would never touch a Tarzan novel that was not written by Burroughs. Nor would I touch a Sherlock Holmes novel not written by Doyle. Your analogy is utter and complete tommyrot

Watchmen is a novel, too. And DC is publishing a series of prequels to it. And they’re proclaiming it as the ‘real thing’ as in an actual continuation of the story (and according to JMS alterations of said story). Which of those statements is incorrect?

Superman_is_not_real

June 6, 2012 at 7:10 pm

So, we’re all agreed, then? Everyone’s going to buy these prequels (or read them in a shop) but proclaim that they hate them to anyone who will listen?

Then, 10 years from now, everyone’ll just accept that the Before Watchmen stuff is officially part of the mythology of the Watchman canon and discuss how great the entire thing is as one giant story or something.

How does this affect you personally? I mean, really. I’d like to know. Enjoy the originals and concern yourself with living life and relax, life’s too short.

I remember a series of films that not too many people had heard about called Star Wars (to clarify: obvious sarcasm). It was a great trilogy of films. Then, the guy WHO made the originals decided to make 3 prequels that were complete and utter crud. But somehow, a lot of people still really liked them and they’ve been making this guy a lot of money ever since. He even went so far as to “revamp” the original trilogy when the films were released to the best digital format, adding unnecessary scenes and whatnot. The Internet folks protested – and hollered. But you know what? They still bought it because they sold a ton of those sets. For those, like myself, that don’t like anything since the special editions, I just pretend that they don’t exist – it’s bliss. Do the same if you don’t like this project.

Moore doesn’t need you defending him. Last I checked, he’s pretty articulate about things. Enjoy his stuff, I do. He no longer cares about superheroes ™. Cool with me. I’ll be ready for whatever he wants to do because he’s a great writer.

IDW’s been releasing new stories for The Rocketeer which have ranged from great to ho-hum. Nobody cares about the fact that Dave Stevens isn’t making them anymore (sadly, he’s passed on), but whatever. No one cares.

Comics are a business: the melding of art and commerce.

“you keep reading ‘em, I’ll keep writing ‘em” – Stan Lee

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