h1

newsarama needs to do better

February 1st, 2012 by |

I can’t say I don’t care about Before Watchmen, but I don’t care a lot about it. I don’t like Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen enough to be interested in more work in that setting in and of itself, but the creative teams, with the exception of Joseph Michael Stracynski, seem fairly interesting. I think it’s a bit of a crap move on all parts, considering the history of the book and its creators, but hey, comics is powered by tears and exploitation. I’ll maybe check out the books Brian Azzarello is working on, but more likely… I won’t.

Lucas Siegel, Newsarama’s (chief? senior?) editor wrote an opinion piece about why Before Watchmen is a good idea. Setting aside the obvious hit-whoring aspect of the piece (in this case, chiming in on the hot-button topic of the day requires a fistful of passive-aggressive shots, getting the name of a major work wrong, making a bunch of specious assumptions, and then cheerleading til your throat’s sore instead of overloading on snark and sneering your opinion out at the ignorant plebes who Just Don’t Get It), he said one thing I thought was disgusting coming from a comics fan, and appalling coming from a comics journalist, one of the gatekeepers of the culture:

Some will point to Alan Moore’s lack of “approval” or involvement as a bad thing, but that’s one of the best parts in my eyes. It’s good to see new creators taking on these characters. it’s good to have fresh voices reaching into these characters. If a character is compelling, there should always be more stories to tell. Moore’s assessment that DC is relying on his “ideas from 25 years ago” is ludicrous and insulting to the talented people working on these books. He didn’t write prequels, they’re writing them. It’s like saying all of his use of public domain characters is him relying on other peoples’ ideas from 100 years ago: he can’t have it both ways.

The bolds are mine, though I really probably could have bolded everything, triple underlined, and highlighted the entire thing.

My opinion of late-era Alan Moore (or his public portrayal, you know what I mean regardless) is complicated. I disagree with his idea that nothing in comics is as good as Watchmen or whatever, and I don’t really like how he’s trotted out by the press once or twice a year to drum up hits by saying something about kids on his lawn. At the same time… he’s definitely earned the right to be cranky about the comics industry. He’s been repeatedly screwed by DC Comics in a number of ways, and his relationships with Marvel, Rob Liefeld (I believe?), and a fistful of other people aren’t so much “on the rocks” as “dashed on the rocks and left there while birds pick out its guts.” I get where he’s coming from, and though it took me a while, I get it. I really do.

I don’t think DC planned to screw him over Watchmen, at least not originally. I think that book was a runaway success that surprised everyone and helped birth a new aspect of the market, and all of that went down in such a way that Moore and Dave Gibbons’s ownership of Watchmen were stray bullets. Moore and Gibbons were supposed to gain ownership, or something similar, once the book had been out of print for a year. From what I’ve heard, it was a good contract, totally reasonable… but the book they made was so good that it generated so much demand that taking it out of print would be throwing away dollars. The future came out of nowhere and screwed up the plans.

Once DC Comics realized that, though, I think they should have renegotiated with the creative team to keep it in print, give them some share of the rights, and then get together to take money baths down at the bank. Instead, they went for the short-term gain, and now the trail of destruction that sits between DC and Alan Moore is unforgivable. They had a chance to make good, to not pull all of the tricks the comics industry is known for pulling, and didn’t. Their short-term business sense said that taking the money and running was a good idea. Long-term thinking would’ve told them that giving Moore and Gibbons what they agreed on, and then nurturing that relationship over the next 25 years, would have let them make a ton of money. It’s a complicated situation and I’m (obviously) not an entertainment lawyer, but I genuinely believe that it should have gone down differently. There’s a moral aspect that should not have been ignored.

Some will point to Alan Moore’s lack of “approval” or involvement as a bad thing, but that’s one of the best parts in my eyes. It’s good to see new creators taking on these characters. it’s good to have fresh voices reaching into these characters. If a character is compelling, there should always be more stories to tell.

Alan Moore being unhappy–no, sorry, the lack of Alan Moore’s pass-agg scare quotes approval pass-agg scare quotes is “one of the best parts in my eyes.” Really though? Why? What does that bring to the equation, other than an old man being unhappy and you getting some cape comics down your gullet? What possible joy is there in some man you’ve never met feeling burned by the industry that he made his name in? Is it like veal? Do Moore’s spitty tirades taste sweet, thanks to all the suffering?

Lucas says that it’s good to see new creators taking on these characters. He has half a point. I’m sure the creative teams (save for Joseph Michael Straczynski) will come up with interesting and worthwhile stories. But Lucas pitches it as Moore standing in the way of these guys doing a good job, and that’s bunk. The two are totally unrelated. Moore can’t stop Azzarello from doing the Comedian story, barring a really surprising escalation to physical violence of the DC/Moore beef. I mean, that’s obvious, right? Moore has been saying, “No, no more Watchmen, please” for years now, and it’s happening anyway. Moore is, in the eyes of DC, irrelevant at best, and a tool to drum up some backwards support at worst.

And you know what? Who in the world gets excited about a sequel when the dude (or one of the dudes) responsible for the first work is like “Nah, that sucks”? Was he that hyped for Scary Movie 3 through 5? “The Wayans want no part of this? SIGN ME UP, BRO!” Whatever.

Moore’s assessment that DC is relying on his “ideas from 25 years ago” is ludicrous and insulting to the talented people working on these books. He didn’t write prequels, they’re writing them. It’s like saying all of his use of public domain characters is him relying on other peoples’ ideas from 100 years ago: he can’t have it both ways.

This is crap reasoning, too. DC is relying on his ideas from 25 years ago, in this instance, because they are making books based around those ideas. Yes, someone else is writing and drawing them, but they are derivative works based on Moore and Gibbons’s original book.

There’s a huge difference between utilizing characters that were obtained via dubious means and using characters that are so old that they have passed into public domain after enjoying their natural (or legal, whatever) lifespan. If I find a lamp on the curb near my apartment, I can take it. That’s legal and fine, because someone put it out there after they used it to their liking. If I borrow a lamp from you, then decide that the lamp is mine because the light is the perfect shade of bright, and then tell you that I’m loaning the lamp out… this hypothetical situation is stupid, but hopefully you get my meaning.

Lucas’s editorial really pisses me off. For better or for worse, he’s in a position to help shape the opinions and minds of new and current comics readers. He’s using his platform to not just support the exploitation of a creator, but to cheer it on. What gets me the most is the sheer… it’s not even entitlement. The sheer scumbaggery on Lucas’s part. The willingness to be a corporate shill. Just the other week, he censored an interview in the name of positivity, but left in a bunch of shots at Rob Liefeld, who is apparently the official punching bag of the comics industry, the guy it’s okay to kick because LOL ROB LIEFELD LOL, no matter how lazy and crap that may be.

(It is interesting, but needlessly conspiracist, to point out that both of these involve Lucas showing favor to DC Comics at the expense of a creator. It’s not a conspiracy, though, because DC has hundreds of fans who will do exactly what Lucas does for the low, low price of free.99. Consult your nearest major comment thread about who owns Superman for further information.)

This sort of go along to get along, Team Comics thing is garbage. It’s another symptom of rot inside comics. Positivity becomes a code word for not rocking the boat and shilling, rather than anything that would actually add to the conversation. Negativity is the worst thing in the world, because we’re all in this together. Lucas’s actions here are the exact type of sucker for love fuckboy horse shit simpery that shows other people that it’s okay to be okay with people being screwed over. Kirby? He had it coming, and John Byrne’s 4th World was better anyway! Ditko? SCHMITko, am I right fellas? The Siegel & Shuster heirs? Aw, they’re just greedy, why don’t they go out and get jobs instead of trying to cancel Superman?

I don’t even understand how Lucas can be in a position to know things about comics, which isn’t hard to begin with, and actually say “Some will point to Alan Moore’s lack of ‘approval’ or involvement as a bad thing, but that’s one of the best parts in my eyes.” and mean it. The comics industry is built on exploitation, your favorite artists from the ’60s and ’70s were almost definitely screwed out of their creations, and editors and managers today apparently believe that having a book on the shelves is a higher calling than having a good book on the shelves. The history of comics isn’t even hard to find out. Alan Moore has been vocal about his experiences, Dwayne McDuffie spoke out, every month there’s a new fund raiser for some old artist who drew some incredibly ill and classic comics but doesn’t have health insurance… this is basic.

I’m not even saying that you can’t like Before Watchmen. Like what you like. You should be cognizant of the situation behind what you like, but you should always just like what you like. Just don’t do what this guy did. Lucas is in a position to shape the hearts and minds of comics readers, and instead, he’s choosing to dickride DC Comics at the expense of the people who actually make comics.

Death to Team Comics, and you need to get the fuck out of here with that garbage. DC won’t ever take you to the prom, Lucas. They don’t even like you. You’re just a customer. That’s all we ever are.

Similar Posts:

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

89 comments to “newsarama needs to do better”

  1. Fire.

    No real comment, I just wanted to tell you you’re doing a great job.


  2. Thank you. Amen.


  3. When I was a young man, I first heard that expression, “Team Comics,” and I thought: Yeah, man. Let’s be in this together. Let’s help each other out. Let’s give shout outs to cool up and coming people, let’s help out the guys who got rumbled back when you could dash someone’s brains out with a brick and pry the boards from their fingers. Let’s spread the love and the resources around. Yeah Team Comics! A team built not just from the Wizard Top Ten (‘cuz that was still a thing back then), but the manga guys and the Euro guys and the guys on the web. And I said “guys” but I meant all genders, like I meant the whole spectrum of people who’d been trying to grab handles on the moving train all along.

    And I was like, “Why do these people say Boo to Team Comics?”

    Like I said, I was in short pants then. Well, not literally, but you know. I didn’t know that Team Comics was Toe The Line Comics. Pass the Buck Comics.

    Man, I don’t even want Punch The Clock Comics.

    I want a new team. Let’s call some new captains and line up from scratch, and the Real Team Comics can start calling names to join up.


  4. Wow, right on. Definitely skipped reading over the Newsarama piece when it went up, mostly because the title smelled to high heaven. Anyway, to add a tidbit. This owes everything to the original Watchmen. It’s a prequel, by definition it relies on the original work (dare I say more than a sequel might). It will inevitably have to end with characters that are poised for the roles they play in the original story.

    It’s one thing to borrow ideas and then make something new with them. Most “new” ideas owe a ton to something that has come before them. But taking one idea and writing a lead-up to it, that’s quite another thing, and limits the ability for creativity.

    Sigh…


  5. Great stuff here. Lucas Siegel is an odd case, as he’s one of those guys who is openly trying to get actual creative work out of the very publishers he’s under the employ to cover, and yet no one ever seems to point that out on as being extremely problematic from a purely ethical standpoint. I seriously doubt that Newsarama could ever become anything more than what it is, but it sure would be nice if more people would call them out a bit more often for something beyond the nerdier complaints. Thanks for this!


  6. Great piece.

    “Just the other week, he censored an interview in the name of positivity, but left in a bunch of shots at Rob Liefeld, who is apparently the official punching bag of the comics industry, the guy it’s okay to kick because LOL ROB LIEFELD LOL, no matter how lazy and crap that may be.” – What interview is this referring to?


  7. The now deleted third part of this interview series.


  8. I appreciate your nuanced approach (not that this issue requires much to move beyond the poles of “Team Alan” and “Team DC”).

    A couple of things bother me about the “Before Watchmen” project, and neither of these concerns have anything to do with a supposed sacrality inherent to Moore’s work.

    The first is a seeming misreading of the material. Much of “Watchmen” works as a critique of myopic nostalgia (see Veidt’s “Nostalgia”) for the good ol’ days, as well as expecting the accomplishments and prestige of the past to counteract stagnation, impotence, and irrelevance in the present (see Shelley’s “Ozymandias”). The cover art released by DC seems to glamorize and celebrate the very attributes of these characters that Moore meant for us to see as destructive, morally questionable, or ineffective (especially the cover to “The Comedian”– good heavens. Is that the Machine from “8mm”?). I think that Moore’s work is as open to criticism, re-vision, and re-assessment as anyone else’s– maybe even more considering the place his works tend to hold in the general esteem of the comics community. However, the apparent deliberate misunderstanding, or maybe misrepresentation, of the basic narrative and political themes of the work suggests to me that DC’s not interested so much in re-thinking “Watchmen” as they are in re-packaging it. Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong.

    Second, as you pointed out above, both Lucas’s “editorial” and DC’s public statements reinforce this persecuted, us-against-the-world, Team Comics delusion. DiDio and Lee both call comics a “collaborative” art form, a statement with which I would generally agree. But collaboration, as I understand the term, connotes a congeniality and mutual transmission of respect, feedback, and ideas. “Before Watchmen” is anything but that. That language of DiDio and Lee’s is more than a bit disingenuous (a tactic Lucas appears to have borrowed) since what they really mean is “We have the copyright, so f**k you.” (This isn’t meant as a criticism of copyright or other intellectual property protections, but let’s call a spade a spade. This is about legal ownership, not forwarding conversation or narrative.) To not demand a relationship of open conversation– whether it’s between creators and fans, fans and publishers, creators and publishers– does the entire industry a disservice. Your blog is a must-read for me because of your investment in quality, honesty, and open dialogue– traits all too uncommon in the comics “press.” Honest criticism is a sign of respect and maturity within any community. Unfortunately, we still have a long ways to go.


  9. At this point, do we really have to consider the whole superhero genre a part of our comics world? I mean, yeah it’s comics – but the fandom and the publishers obviously have no stake in the medium as anything more than a content mill for either money or…I dunno, what do the fans get out of it? It’s like watching re-runs of remakes for 20 years, and calling it new and fresh. This is just more grist for the unoriginal mill.


  10. [...] [...]


  11. :damn:
    Pretty harsh. And well deserved.
    And yeah, it’s disappointing to see that “but Moore did LoEG and Lost Girls!” and act as if that’s some kind of “Checkmate Mother Fucker :smug: “, “gotcha!” type logic.

    I can understand why they’d want to defend this: Adam Hughes! Amanda Conner! Darwyn Cook! Joe Kubert! Etc, etc! It’s an impressive team DC put together, no doubt. But like much of “Team Comics” it’s built on the backs of martyrs.


  12. @Joe H:
    Correction: “it’s disappointing to see people use that ‘but Alan Moore…'”


  13. “It’s good to see new creators taking on these characters. it’s good to have fresh voices reaching into these characters.” was the most repulsive part to me. A lot of the alltime greats wouldn’t have existed if people weren’t forced to branch off or lacked the sheer humility to not raise the dead. Sherlock Holmes was Poirot fanfiction (and they make explicit references to Poirot in A Study In Scarlet), Batman is The Phantom and The Shadow (Which they make explicit reference to on the TV show on that episode with Adam West’s guest voice) and The Phantom is Fantomas and Fantomas spawned legions of other knockoffs. What I’m meaning to say is knockoffs are better than fanfiction, knockoffs will ALWAYS be better than fanfiction because they ARE fanfiction but infinitely more personal. It’s good artist steal/bad artist borrow nonsense. In comics it should go good creator clone/bad artist kidnap.

    I’ve been sick of this whole Watchmen ordeal for about 24 hours and I’ve unfollowed people over it, but this here is the first bit of info I’ve seen about it that I feel is significant. That shitty horrible fucking attitude some people have about intellectual property and creators is exactly what I cannot stand about the industry. To be honest, the only Newsarama stuff I ever see are the things that get hateful rebuttals on 4L, so at least you’re keeping tabs on the asses.


  14. This piece is platonic Comics Journalism. Just perfect.

    One of the most annoying things about this whole ordeal is the reduction of Alan Moore into a caricature to be trotted out when someone needs a sound bite for how comics suck now. If you look at an interview with him from earlier in his career (say this Prisoners of Gravity clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPv-idYj1p0 and there’s also a Watchmen episode) and compare and contrast with a modern interview. Back in the day, they talk to him like a real person. Today they prod the bear. Yeah, he’s not blameless at all, he chooses to take the bait but when it’s all they give you… He’s an interesting dude. When you have the luck to talk to him, why not chat about things he cares about, like magic, fantasy or Michael Moorcock or whatever? I guess that doesn’t generate the hits.

    @Jason: I get where you’re coming from. And even though it’s hypocritical as hell since I’m staring at a stack of comics that includes cape books, I often agree. But hell, look at the blog you’re commenting on. It’s not exactly a revelation to say that there are people who enjoy superhero comics and yet aren’t dopes.

    If the response to these issues is “Fuck off, DC and Marvel” they’re going to take their balls and go home. This isn’t me saying that everyone has to read things they publish, but if enough people who actually read their product, who they know put money in their pocket say “Do better. I care about this stuff and I’m a real customer, I’m not falling for this shilling cronyism” they’ll listen. If swathes of your average Captain America shirt wearing pull list at the comic shop guy raised a stink, who knows? We’d see Gary Friedrich get his Ghost Rider royalties, for god’s sake. I’d rather they get convinced to join the 21st Century and dole out like what 5% of their total revenue in royalties than get quarantined off to destroy their own little realm.

    Just want you to know, I’m just using your comment to pontificate a bit. I’m not arguing. Oh, and I checked out your webcomic and I like the art a lot.

    @Jack: I agree 100% with your statement. That being said, it’s nitpicky but Sherlock Holmes appeared in the late 19th century, and Poirot’s from the 20s I think. I’m pretty sure A Study in Scarlet was published like 40 years before Poirot existed. I think you meant it the other way around!


  15. Great piece with some sweet gut-punches. “Is it like veal?”

    That (godawful) Comedian cover is basically what I thought a Lee Bermejo Rorschach comic would look like, but the one image they’ve released from that is actually pretty good, so: sorry Lee Bermejo, thumbs down J. G. Jones(?). I was also wrong to be annoyed that “they gave JMS two of the best art teams!”, because both of those covers are pretty bad. I love a Kubert, but you can’t look at that without hearing Zack Snyder screech “NITE OWL IS LIKE BAT-MAN!” Maybe JMS told them what to draw.

    I don’t know if it’s supposed to be, but Jae Lee’s ACTUALLY MEDITATING Ozymandias is hilarious (and well drawn).


  16. & Dark Knight Strikes Again is fanboy-reviled, not “critically-“.


  17. 1. Spot on David. That article was just terrible. As is DC’s legally viable but ethically wrong treatment of Moore and Gibbons in regards to Watchmen.

    2. I’m still totally disintrested in this project, less from moral outrage than just thinking it sounds boring, but man would I be all over some non-corporate pulp style bad girl masked hero book by Cooke & Conner…


  18. For the record, I think the Comedian cover is a direct reference to the classic “smiley” cover – note the blood splatter over one eye and the great big grin.


  19. @david brothers:

    Just for a heads up, Brandon Graham posted what was left out on his website so anyone who wants to read it, it’s there.

    http://royalboiler.wordpress.com/

    Elephant in the room.


  20. @Michael: Yeah, it’s horrible (obviously supposed to be to some degree, but…)


  21. [...] a question that’s bugging me quite a bit, today.  David Brothers has the round-up for you, and he’s just about as right as rain about it, but the one thing he doesn’t [...]


  22. I was planning on writing my own take on Before Watchmen, but David’s expert wordsplosion makes anything I say look small.

    In the end, my main feelings on it are, “Eh, sure. Whatever.” I just can’t really find myself caring either way. At best, we’ll get a couple decent stories out of it. At worst, we’ll get something to point and laugh at. Watchmen will be fine, just like Empire Strikes Back is still fine.

    I think at this point I’m more entertained by the utter balls of it all. It’s the circus of arguing where I’m sitting on the sidelines, shrugging it over.


  23. @James W: Um, Ozymandias is funny for actually levitating. Not meditating, which is less surprising.


  24. well written, well done.


  25. That is some hot fire. So how about re-purposing this piece for ComicsAlliance? (Joking because it isn’t something that would happen)


  26. “Like what you like. You should be cognizant of the situation behind what you like, but you should always just like what you like.”

    Yes! Great advice, right there. Ace article.


  27. Wow. Well said, Sir. Well said indeed.


  28. I thought the Newsarama article made great points. In fact as a fan of the cycles of romantic classics [matter of britain, matter of france, matter of rome] I am very comfortable with a body of stories created by many different authors over a period of many years all contributing to a tapestry of mythic fiction.

    The Arthurian saga in particular was added to and expanded upon by so many, almost beyond count.


  29. But Randy, Watchmen was always a closed work. Who gave you the privilege to declare it a “cycle?”


  30. AH SHIT I MEANT DUPIN NOT POIROT I’M AN IDIOT.


  31. All I’m saying is that I am fairly certain the bard that first told a King Arthur story had no idea it would grow and be expanded upon by numerous authors. All that matters is if these stories are good – there are no sacred cows.


  32. The bard that first told a King Arthur story also wasn’t swindled out of money by a corporate behemoth seeking to capitalize on his work. The main issue isn’t the cycle of stories, it’s that creators are being taken advantage of in order to facilitate that cycle. As Mr. Brothers intoned a while back – Creators Up, Characters Down.


  33. But surely one of the strengths of Watchmen is that it is a closed work. The whole structure of the book (and let’s be sensible, the really impressive thing about the book is its structure, not its characters or its plot) is built off the fact that this is a single complete story.

    If you want a tapestry of fiction, then virtually every other superhero’s ongoing narrative provides this, right down to the fact that stories are endlessly retold, as King Arthur’s has been. Watchmen was never an attempt to do that, though; it’s a novel. It doesn’t need prequels, especially in the form of prequels in the form of some miniseries by a variety of creative teams.

    Needless to say, David, this was an excellent article.


  34. This kinda teaches me not to skim through op/ed pieces like the Newsarama one. I went through it pretty quickly, and the gist I got from it was that the sequel wouldn’t effect the original story…which is partially how I feel about this whole thing. My positive feelings towards this project stems from the fact that I do indeed want to read stories by creators I mostly enjoy about characters who I’ve grown to like.

    My negative feelings for this, however, stem from the overall scuzziness of this whole ordeal. Yes, DC legally owns these characters and can do whatever they want with them…and yes, comics are a form of serial story telling. The problem is that all of this is being forced upon Moore, as it seems that DC is doing everything in its power to repeatedly push the rights further and further away from him. It’s not like Moore is fighting for control of characters that he didn’t own in the first place. He placed his good faith in DC, which of course didn’t work out. Skimming the article, I didn’t see that Moore’s creative stake in the book was being trivialized, and that upsets me. I know that it’s possible that I’ll enjoy most of these minis despite Alan Moore being the victim of continued corporate douchebaggery, but to laud Moore being shoved aside just seems brazen and upsetting to me.


  35. @Brian D.: I believe in Creators Up, Characters Down too. That’s why I’ll be supporting Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo in this, because I’m a big fan of both creators regardless of which characters they happen to be using.


  36. [...] read Newsarama’s I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S NOT SATIRE TAKE and David Brothers’ elegant evisceration of the same, we figure you’ve still probably got room in that multiversal brain of yours for a very [...]


  37. My biggest issue is that a prequel not only doesn’t work in the context of the Watchmen story, but also that it actually ruins the original text. At least not if we’re going into the past and finding out what exactly happened in “times past.” The whole point of the Watchmen storyline is that all we get in recollections of the past from the people in the story. These recollections get misremembered or people find out different things based on their recollections being contradicted by other people. But the whole point is that it is all about “Nostalgia.”

    Even if we consider that Alan Moore wanted to a “past story” in the Watchmen universe, the idea was that the story they would’ve revisited would’ve involved the Minutemen and not the Watchmen. The tie probably would’ve been the Comedian, but overall it would’ve been about the precursors to the Watchmen instead of going back to the stories of the individual Watchmen.

    I think that’s what is most annoying about doing “Before Watchmen.” It shouldn’t be about the Watchmen themselves. The whole point of Watchmen is piecing together the different parts of what people remember to find out what exactly happened. I have little confidence in it precisely because it deals with the actual Watchmen characters.


  38. @tucker stone: This whole “journalists trying to pitch to the publishers” thing is a major issue in comics since the rise of internet news sites. Even by the very loose definition of journalism that exists on so many of the blogs and sites that represent the 21st century version of the fan press, zines, etc., it’s really, really shameful and gross how many people you hear about turning around and pitching to companies they purport to be reviewers/critics of.

    Though I’m also not sure what good it is to hound people after this online on a broad scale. Most of that kind of talk usually reads too “inside baseball” to me. I doubt the average reader of a site be they comics consumer, retailer or even creator cares much about one journalist snarking at another for perceived lack of professional ethics. Mostly I think that just reads across as sour grapes of one kind or another. Though I could be totally wrong about that.


  39. David, this was a really nice post.

    I think, maybe, that the broader issue here is less about boosterism for Team Comics or any one particular publisher or project and more about how thoroughly the publishers and entertainment conglomerates that own this material have brainwashed their readership to view everything as pure IP. There are no stories to the core readers of comics. There are no novels or works of art. There are only properties, and when the readership views everything through the lens of “this character property hasn’t been utilized in recent memory” the same way an entertainment lawyer would, OF COURSE they’re going to come out on the side of the corporations rather than the rank and file creative class. It’s the mantra they’ve been spoonfed since sometime around the Sonny Bono Act or before.

    As for the particulars of how Watchmen or how Moore has been treated over the past 25 years, I agree that the likely original intent behind the contracts offered to him and Gibbons was not at all one where they’d get screwed as hard as they did in terms of ownership, and the overall actions of DC as a corporate entity at the very least constitute a major breech of ethical conduct. Still, looking at the totality of moves on the Watchmen rights over all this time, I think it’s important to identify and consider the specific players rather than throw everything at the feet of DC the faceless corporation. The people who offered the original contract (primarily Dick Giordano) are different from the people who primarily managed the book for the past two decades (primarily Paul Levitz) are different from the people now launching this series of prequels (primarily Dan Didio). I don’t know that it’ll ever be possible to know who wrote up the contract or who called the shots in regards to not letting the book lapse into print (Giordano is dead for one, Moore seems uninterested in talking specifics for two and Levitz doesn’t ever discuss that kind of business in interviews and likely won’t so long as he’s still a DC consultant/freelancer…though with his history I hope at some point he comes out and opens up about a lot of his tenure as Publisher, which I think has a lot more nuance than his critics would suggest or accept). However, I DO think it’s pretty clear how this most recent series of moves happened and why – the person who pulled the trigger on these prequels is doing so in an era where the company has reorganized to maximize the synchronicity between publishing and the film division, and while Watchmen the movie didn’t do great box office, that book sold a million fucking copies in the build up to it. That alone tells you a lot of what you need to know about the priorities over there right now (though there’s much more to it, I think).

    As for Moore’s own proclivity for popping up twice a year and shaking his fist at comics, I think this also has a lot of factors in play outside sites goosing for hits. Having spoken to him on the phone for long interviews, I can say that he is one of the toughest subjects to pin down in conversation for any journalist. Pretty much when you interview Alan Moore, you ask a question and then he talks at you for 35 minutes and then you ask another. His general personality and style of speaking make it hard to break in and challenge a point with him. When I talked to him about the Black Dossier, I was minorly successful at getting him to be more specific about his criticisms of comics where he admitted that there was lots of material he liked coming out these days (Persepolis stands out as something he was very positive about), but most of his rancor is rightly centered on the traditional comics publishing establishment of DC and Marvel. Again, the nuance of something like that rarely reads through when journalists only have the opportunity to talk to him every six months and focus their questions on his latest projects. I don’t think that my meager attempts at getting a better picture out of him count for much, but I’d bet that someone who has built a bit of a rapport with him that goes in with an eye towards challenging a few of his assumptions let alone the assumptions that online fan culture makes about him could actually do a great service to ridding this “Old man yelling ‘Get off my lawn'” picture that’s been (I think) unfairly painted of him over the past three years or so.


  40. @Kiel Phegley: As a fan of the medium, but not necessarily a fan of the industry, I find Mr. Stone’s and Mr. Brothers’ comments and insights about the supposed “gatekeepers” of comic-related media is essential reading for me.

    I often find the realtionship between comic coporations and news-site that report on them too cozy and willing to playing along with PR spin. While this is endemic throughout all media, it seem especially ingrained in the comic media. The “calling out” is a reasonable and necessary reaction to maintain some modicum of integrity in the coverage of comic news.

    Whether it is the “Team Comics” mentatlity or a more insidious “quid pro quo” situation, this behavior creates a media that is untrustworthy and lacking credibiilty. I think all the major comic newsites (including yours) would be better served if they employed an omsbudsman.

    Things will only get better, if we hold the producers, reporters and ourselves accountable.


  41. I just don’t buy into “well they should have negotiated another deal and split the money”. How would that be good for business? So Alan Moore can make more Watchmen? They don’t need him for that.

    I mean I get it, we’re all comic book fans here, we wanna do right by the creators, but to stop the presses and start throwing away money? I don’t hold any real malice to that.


  42. @RS David: Hey David!

    Thanks for such a considered, thoughtful comment.

    To be clear, I don’t AT ALL think that David B or Tucker are out of line in what they’ve written here. I think David’s post is well argued, well considered and worthwhile, and I think Tucker’s comment is 1,000% on the money. If I gave any other impression than that, I apologize.

    What I’m saying is that there’s a balance to how these things work, and the idea that news sites would be better served on the whole spending a lot of time and resources trying only to police the biases (perceived, evidenced or proven) of other sites would be a drain on both resources and the readership. To be simple about it, people come to my site to read news on comics. They don’t come to them to read about other people who write about comics who I may have some beef with this week.

    Certainly, there’s room for and a need for criticism of news organizations (this post being a fine example and many similar posts criticizing CBR also being necessary and worthwhile), but I think that a lot of the self-policing that happens throughout the comics journalism community can happen outside the confines of our main editorial pages. The other day, I saw bloggers and reporters for a number of sites take to Twitter to point out how one writer had mis-sourced a major piece of news, and the writer in question corrected it with apologies. I doubt most of their readers noticed or cared about the slight, but it was good to see a vetting and response.

    As for your idea of an ombudsman, I think it’s wonderful in theory but impossible in practical terms. CBR may be considered a big site by comics standards but by business standards, we’re very small. Aside from Jonah who owns the site, there’s one full time editor besides me and two part time editors. Everyone else is freelance. The four of us on the Editorial team do our very best to police the copy that comes in from our writers, and I think you may be surprised how often we send things back for rewrites or additional sourcing for both clarity and factual honesty. We may not bat 1,000, but I’d like to think our average is pretty strong.

    Overall, I don’t think that criticisms of companies, publishers or news sites is unnecessary. Exactly the opposite, in fact. I just argue that criticisms come in a place where they have the most direct impact on the work itself rather than for the promotion of one interest over another, and (far more importantly) that they come with a high degree of specificity. Arguing about comics in vague terms or broad generalities does no one any favors, especially those of us in the press. I understand that you and many other readers may think that CBR, Newsarama or a multitude of other sites are “too cozy” with the publishers in comics, but from my own experience, the kinds of criticisms lobbed at me and mine on that front often come with no direct examples or arguments, only insults and false assumptions.

    I’ve said this elsewhere, but I used to work at Wizard Magazine – a place that despite my having met many great people on staff and having the opportunity to write many things I could be proud of was run by people who were more than happy to wash any and all ethical or even legal obligations aside to increase profits. Working there was often humiliating and demoralizing no matter how hard I tried to personally be an honest news reporter. I’m very happy to report that CBR holds a far better standard for independence and honesty in its writing. Jonah Weiland is as admirable and ethical a person as I can name in comics, and I couldn’t dream to count the number of times I’ve seen him tell publishers to eat shit when they try and strong arm specific coverage or stories out of us.

    Anyway, I’m blathering now and crudding up David’s comments. If you ever have any questions about CBR stories or content, feel free to e-mail me:
    kphegley [at] comicbookresources [dot] com


  43. @Jeremy: Becasue it makes for better business not to alienate high level talent. When you have talent like Alan Moore, you keep them happy to keep them in house because there is more money to be made together than seperate.

    When Moore signed the deal for Watchmen, there was every expectation that the rights would revert back Moore and Gibbons. Unfortunately, they were doomed by their own success.

    Look at the way DC currently treats Neil Gaiman. DC owns Sandman, but they go out of their way to make sure any creative decisions regarding those characters and material is run by him. They don’t have to, but by maintaining a healthy realtionship to ensure future collabartions and, hopefully, profits.


  44. “I just don’t buy into “well they should have negotiated another deal and split the money”. How would that be good for business? So Alan Moore can make more Watchmen? They don’t need him for that.”

    They need him if they wanted him to invent anything besides Watchmen. Which he arguably did at least twice after Watchmen, with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell (just to pick the two that became movies).

    Otherwise, they’re stuck with relying on whores.

    They’re stuck with SPACEMAN.

    How’s that working out for them?


  45. They probably can’t hear the SPACEMAN complaints over all the money they make off Batman every year. Plus, they got that knock-off Alan Moore guy, the Scottish dude into the occult stuff. That’s gotta be the next best thing, right?

    I mean, I get the hatred. I could call them baby rapers and write passive-aggressive articles about the death of Gene Colan being Marvel’s fault in a way to further stick it to the man. I get that super-cynical outlooks are looked on more kindly by the comic blogsphere(or just the blogspehere in general) compared to rah-rah comic book patriotism like Newsarama. I get it.

    I just don’t feel compelled to rally one way or another on this matter. Its like Dr. Manhatten at the end of the troubled Watchmen film., seeing the mess Ozy did to help cultivate a better world. “Without condoning or condemning, I understand”.


  46. And you know what? Who in the world gets excited about a sequel when the dude (or one of the dudes) responsible for the first work is like “Nah, that sucks”? Was he that hyped for Scary Movie 3 through 5? “The Wayans want no part of this? SIGN ME UP, BRO!” Whatever.

    I was very much hyped for Scary Movie 3 because it was David Zucker. In the end, Scary Movie 3 > 1 > 4 > 2. Coming out with a sequel to a comedy within a year of the first one is a bad idea and Scary Movie 2 showed why.

    In other news, Watchmen.


  47. For me, Peter David summed it up well, and I don’t think it fits a neat narrative. I won’t be reading this, but I didn’t revere Watchmen either.


  48. A serious question to everyone who is for the creative rights and ownership of the characters Marvel and DC have built themselves on. (No sarcasm or snark intended)

    Does it bother you when it happens in other mediums? Matt Groening created the Simpsons as a concept and the core family group of characters, but it’s pretty accepted that the show runners and writers like Conan O’Brien created and filled the Simpsons world with the memorable cast, and were responsible for the shows peak seasons. I don’t believe they get the merchandising, royalty bonanza bucks like Groening does, even though the shows success can be attributed to them.

    Or how about the employees for companies like Apple who either help create, or might (in some cases) even come up with some of their top selling products? They aren’t getting full control of the creation.

    It happens in just about every form of business out there. From what I’ve seen, the comics industry is far far sleazier about how they treat the building blocks for their empire – but tons of corporations use the ideas and creations of their employees in this way. Do you view it all the same?


  49. I recently saw a film called The Trotsky, which was about Jay Baruchel (!!!!!) as a high school convinced he’s the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky. He tries to unionize the school. It’s a pretty ridiculous movie, and it would make John Nolte shit blood for a decade, but there’s a scene where the always reliable Michael Murphy, as Baruchel’s lawyer, reflects on his old 60s protesting days and says, “When it stopped being fun, that’s when changed really started happening. When we realized we were in trouble, that’s when things got done.”

    I’m not sure what that means in the context of Before Watchmen, but it wandered into my head the moment it was announced and won’t leave.


  50. “I don’t think DC planned to screw him over Watchmen”

    The thing is, it wasn’t *just* the contract. As I understand it, as the comic was coming out DC sold “Watchmen” merchandise, badges etc, which they labeled as “promotional materials” purely because they could thereby avoid paying any royalties to AM and DG. They totally planned to screw them. It’s what they do.


  51. @Jeremy: Before the Watchmen debacle, Moore wrote Swamp Thing, a few issues of Superman and Action Comics, a few issues of Green Lantern, and V for Vendetta (among other things) which are all still in print and selling a lot of product for DC 30 years later. After Watchmen, he wrote them nothing. That’s why it was a stupid idea – keeping total control of Watchmen probably wasn’t worth all the copies of all the later DC books he would have written.


  52. @EtcEtcEtc: More or less, yes. We’d all be better off if the money from these things was spread out around the people who created them instead of concentrating in the hands of a smaller group of people who did less work in creating the products that generated the money.


  53. fantastic article!


  54. [...] the way those people are treated in this industry. We need to start valuing creators rights over our own greedy need for more third-rate pulp. We need to stop making shameless, defensive rationalizations and [...]


  55. “There’s a huge difference between utilizing characters that were obtained via dubious means and using characters that are so old that they have passed into public domain after enjoying their natural (or legal, whatever) lifespan.”

    David, curious (and genuinely asking).

    Why is there a “huge difference”?


  56. [...] [...]


  57. There’s a quote circulating out there (http://tmblr.co/Zny1byFn9EEs) where Gibbons acknowledges that, contractually speaking, DC would have been well within their rights to hold on to the characters by having Rorschach crossover with Batman. He doubted they’d have the bad taste, but he acknowledged they’d legally be able to. This was in the very year Watchmen came out, stated with Alan Moore right next to him. If you have a contract and decide to just take it on good faith that they won’t do what you’d prefer them not to do…that’s just naive and, to my mind, makes you complicit in your own “screwing over” if you felt that’s what happened.

    The Dark Phoenix Saga was repackaged and sold as a regularly in-print trade prior to Watchmen being serialized and then there’s the European market (which, you know, Moore and Gibbons would be aware of). The potential was in front of them, but they decided to take a “that’s so unlikely that it’d be a waste to put a provision in the contract for it” approach.

    Which isn’t to say one can’t make an argument they got screwed over, but that the lengths of that screwing get exaggerated by a black and white approach when there are tons of gray involved.

    But I do agree that the extent of folks covering the industry are also trying to break into it is very problematic, especially with the example cited above. That does happen everywhere and to different degrees. I know reviewers who would choose only to review books they liked, as to not shit on interpersonal relationships with creators and companies, and yet others who would fellate said books in buddying up to a creator that they hoped would get them in. I’ve seen folks rush to be the one to review a particular book because publishers were more prone to use pull quotes for the trade on that title.

    The most egregious lack of ethics I ever publicly witnessed, though, was Hannibal Tabu reviewing a comic from Boom that he had originally been approached to edit (Hunter’s Moon). While he at least disclosed his relationship to the property, the true ethical response would be to recuse oneself from reviewing the work.

    The worst example I ever privately witnessed? Two negative reviews of the final issue of Blackest Night being selectively left out of the spotlight article, despite being available hours before the article ran. They were the only two reviews that criticized the book. I’ve only ever reviewed for one site and neither of the two class guys who generally wrangled my reviews were responsible for the censoring. Wasn’t long after that I just stopped writing any reviews for that site, despite thinking so highly of the rest of the crew.


  58. More fun with Newsarama: they had an exit interview with Mark Waid re: Irredeemable and Incorruptible ending in May. Who conducted the interview? Matt Gagnon, Waid’s editor in chief. I guess they didn’t want even Newsarama guys asking The Rich Johnston question, because while there’s a part of me that wants to think Waid realized all his whining about dark comics was awfully hypocricial as long as the Plutonian was out there, I’m way too cynical to believe that.


  59. Thank you for writing this article, David, it truly is one of the most eloquent articles about the whole entire situation at hand. For someone who can accept that this project was inevitable (especially, after one realizes that Levitz was the only thing holding it back) this announcement still makes me unhappy because it’s basically a creative “White Flag of Surrender” by the Big 2 as a whole. Of course, one could also say that DC and Marvel have been heading this direction (and even have already reached it) for/in the past 25 years or more. Still, I can’t help but feel a sense of loss that this announcement brings.

    As a last note, thank you for touching upon the whole “Alan Moore used old characters, so this is cumuppance” argument. Even if that argument is valid, it’s validity is so shallow that it totally undermines an important aspect of creative license and power (and also indirectly disses Fables and other tales that use old characters in ways you never expected). Even if you didn’t like Alan Moore did in those stories, it’s still has more creative validity than “Before Watchman” will ever have.

    I guess I’ll be ignoring the main offerings of both Marvel and DC this summer. Oh well, more time for excellent non-mainstream titles.


  60. Y’know,it’s fun to watch the comic industry make moral arguments about the need to support the industry/creators/creative class,only for them to turn around and pull this type of crap.
    And you wonder why very few people take them seriously….


  61. @michael doran: “David, curious (and genuinely asking). Why is there a “huge difference”?”

    :barf:


  62. I put this up over at Mindless Ones. I hope it’s alright if I repost it here (although I imagine there will be a fair amount of overlap in readership…)

    Before I get too far into my argument I want to state that 1) whatever else happened Moore was, as I understand it, dicked over by DC with a misleading contract, that 2) these Watchmen Prequels probably won’t be anything other than quarter-bin fodder and 3) whatever I think of Moore’s recent output (Lost Girls and most of LoEG are interesting failures; 1969 and Neonomicon are repugnant for a number of reasons) I expect even the worst of it to be miles beyond Before Watchmen.

    But that’s not what bothers me about this. What bothers me is this: DC should have the right to make a Watchmen prequel. And so should Moore. So should Grant Morrison or Marvel or JokerFan666 on Livejournal or Alice Munro. So should you and I.

    The premise that any fictional character is sacrosanct, that they must be protected from further interference and reinterpretation, is absurd. The idea that stories need to be “protected” is nonsense. People have told hundreds of Dracula stories over the years: Anno Dracula, Chris Sims’ recent all-ages stuff, Tomb of Dracula, Castlevania, all kinds of nonsense. And Dracula’s still doing fine. People still make money off Dracula. Stoker’s book is still recognized as the progenitor; the other stuff is welcomed into the canon, if it’s good, or forgotten, as I’m sure Before Watchmen will be.

    Instead, copyright has been used to establish fictional characters as “intellectual property,” as “franchises,” at the cost of variety and depth in popular culture. Darren Aronofsky wants to do a blue-collar Batman reboot, which sounds interesting, but which we’ll never see because Warner Brothers has a legal monopoly on depictions of Batman, because a character created in 1939 is not yet in the public domain. How many great stories have we been denied? How many significant new versions of Superman, James Bond, Harry Potter have been smothered before they could even be released?

    And it doesn’t matter if you call this stuff “transformative works” or “fan fiction.” Before Watchmen is fan fiction of “Watchmen,” but that was fan fiction of the Charlton Comics characters who were all second-rate pulp rip-offs to begin with. Ulysses was Odyssey fan fiction, The Wide Sargasso Sea is fan fiction of Jane Eyre, and so on. The fact that a work was not approved by the great-grandchildren or corporate exploiters of the author doesn’t invalidate it’s artistic value. Frankly, I’d rather read “fan fiction” by interesting and ambitious amateurs than the pandering garbage that DC’s putting out right now.

    Copyright protection used to last 28 years, then 56, now 110; and it’s so restrictive that even legitimate creative reinterpretations of a work are prohibited. Hate speech is protected in the US, criticism of our government is protected, but try to tell a story about a specific cartoon mouse and you will be summoned to court. Decades-long corporate monopolies on cartoon characters are more important than freedom of speech.

    This isn’t to justify DC’s treatment of Moore, or their (likely abysmal) Watchmen prequels. And certainly creators should have some legal protection against forgeries and corporate exploitation of their work. But right now copyright is doing the opposite. It’s protecting corporations from artists. If these characters are our contemporary mythology (as company man Grant Morrison argues), if Superman really is bigger than Siegel and Shuster: then he’s sure as hell bigger than a mob of Warner Brothers suits and anal-retentive editorial fanboys.

    So as far as I’m concerned this problem goes a lot deeper than Moore and DC: it’s a fundamental problem with copyright law and with our concept of “intellectual property.” People (even asshats like JMS) should be able to make the art they want to make. Any law that interferes with that is unacceptable.


  63. @Jack: You’re not an idiot. Dupin, Poirot, they’re both insufferable foreigners.


  64. @michael doran:

    Why is there a “huge difference”? Because you can’t own a public domain character. If you write a story featuring a public domain character, you’re not stopping anyone else from doing the same. Literally anyone can do a comic starring Allan Quatermain or Dorothy Gale without stepping on anybody else’s toes (their creators are dead) or restricting anyone else from using them. The BBC made a series updating Sherlock Holmes to the present day, and now they’re getting shirty because CBS want to do the same thing – tough. Just because you’ve written stories about Sherlock Holmes, doesn’t mean you own him. That’s what public domain means.

    DC control who, if anybody, gets to do stories with the Watchmen characters, while the people who created those characters are still living and have no control. That is a huge difference.

    To be honest, I think DC did all right by Moore and Gibbons while Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz were in charge. They sold copies of the book, paid the royalties due, and generally acted as a publisher. The fact that DC, and not Moore and Gibbons, owned the copyright, made no difference so long as they didn’t make derivative works against the wishes of the creators. There was obviously a degree of good intentions there, and if Moore had been a bit more diplomatic about it, perhaps a renegotiation of the contract would have been possible, as it was for Neil Gaiman. But he does like to cut off his nose to spite his face.


  65. @Fletcher Wortmann

    No disrespect intended, but for me it’s problematic to gloss over specific issues that are actually at hand, just because there’s another broader issue out there about copyright tout court. You and I could have an argument about that, I think life + 50 years is fine and perhaps you think creators should outlive their right of copy, and I would probably say something like “so what’s the tearing hurry, must we have Harry Potter entering the public domain next week or something, in order to have a vibrant culture?” But that’d be a pretty sweeping discussion, about broad principles and how to take the public interest into account via legislation. But I don’t see this as “really” being about that, you know? And I think it’s a temptation for many people to jump to the larger, more abstract issue because it relieves them of responsibility to the smaller and more concrete one…I’m thinking particularly of the Siegel case…but it’s a temptation that ought to be resisted, because we can do violence to people’s real grievances that way, by overlooking fairness on the individual level while we worry about matters of pure philosophic principle on the collective one. While copyright is the way it is, I think we have to deal with it on that level: somebody does control the disposition of the property, and somebody gets the money, and as long as that’s true I think it isn’t a waste of time to ask if we think it’s the right person, or is the situation an equitable one, etc. etc.

    Just wanted to say that. Oh, and I don’t really think of Watchmen as Charlton fan-fic, actually! If you didn’t know Moore and Gibbons originally wanted to use Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt, would you really recognize him in Ozymandias?


  66. @plok:
    These are all fair points. I sympathized with your post about being hesitant about buying Marvel comics because of the Kirby lawsuit: both of the big two kinda have blood on their hands and it sucks to support them (and again, I think it would be great if we could buy original stories featuring these characters by independent artists, but that’s neither here nor there). I think what set me off is the side of the debate about whether Watchmen “deserves” to be left alone, or whether we “need” new voices on these characters – I certainly don’t think don’t think Watchmen’s legacy will be hurt by a few rubbish tie-ins, any more than “Lost Girls” hurt Peter Pan. I guess copyright reform is an issue I’m passionate about, and it’s easy to get swept up in the big picture.

    (I don’t think Watchmen is “fanfic,” either, except in the sense of synthesizing Charlton comics as one of its major influences – instead I was trying to make a point about influence in creative works, how claims that you should ‘come up with new ideas’ are usually overly simplistic, how every artist is indebted to older works, etc. I certainly wouldn’t have recognized Ozy as the Thunderbolt, mostly because I didn’t know who the Thunderbolt was, and you don’t need to know his history to appreciate Watchmen. But I will say: if some writer has a world-changing idea for a reinvented Harry Potter, I’d rather read that story next week than a hundred years from now.)

    But with regards to DC’s actions and what they say about their respect with their employees, their strategy for managing intellectual property, their long-term market feasibility: yeah, this is awful, both for what it says about the industry’s priorities and as an ethical decision with regards to the wishes one of their former writers. I’m not Moore’s biggest fan but he clearly has a legitimate grievance here. Whether DC is allowed to publish Watchmen sequels, in terms of the law or of their right to speech. they clearly shouldn’t have.


  67. @Fletcher

    We agree! Though as I said over on Mindless Ones, I think getting around infringement is pretty easily done these days? There’s a non-Asimov Foundation book called “Psychohistorical Crisis”, if DC hadn’t owned Charlton then Watchmen could still have been made, etc. etc. Books Of Magic has lots of Harry Potter stories in it!


  68. @Marc-Oliver Frisch: He asked an honest question. Don’t be a cock.


  69. @Gavok: I enjoy being a cock to people who act like the concept of ethics was just invented to annoy them personally.


  70. When I was talking to the guy who owns my FLCS about the prequels, he brought up Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead as an example of how derivative works can be great, and Dark Knight Strikes Again as an example of how letting the original creator revisit a previous work won’t always result in something as good as the original.


  71. @Marc-Oliver Frisch: That’s just wonderful. Too bad he did nothing of the sort.


  72. @ Prodigal: I would never let Shakespeare touch Hamlet today! Guy’s way too old.


  73. @Prodigal: Your retailer seems to be assuming Moore wants the rights for a sequel of his own.

    I think, if anything, Moore would want the rights to remove Watchmen from print and pulp it, if he so chose. The issue is not with sequels and who does them. The question is whether the book should have a sequel or be in the popular consciousness. I think, in Moore’s case, he wants people to get the hell over the book.


  74. @Patrick Gerard: That’s your assumption, not his. His point was that the prequels being derivative works by somebody other than the original talent didn’t necessarily mean that they would suck.


  75. @Chris: but comics AREN’T inherently serial, just a specific subset of the comics medium involving superheroes is. and, as everyone is pointing out, watchmen was specifically devised as a standalone story. it’s like having “kid hamlet” stories. yeah, you could do it, but is that really something people need?

    crap, now i kinda want a “kid hamlet” story.


  76. @ben caldwell: If they had the people who did the Franklin Richards comic, I would buy the hell out of Kid Hamlet.


  77. “When I was talking to the guy who owns my FLCS about the prequels, he brought up Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead as an example of how derivative works can be great, and Dark Knight Strikes Again as an example of how letting the original creator revisit a previous work won’t always result in something as good as the original.”

    what? R&G is a complete reexamination of hamlet, or rather an examination of fate and a million other things, using hamlet as a framework. it strips the parts down, completely perverts them, then reassembles them into something that is unquestionably new. does anyone honestly think these new books, even assuming they are AMAZING comics, are going to be a fundamental reexamination of the human condition that just happens to take off from watchmen? it’s not like donald barthelme’s ghost is writing “the comedian” prequel.

    i understand the basic point, and to a certain extent i agree, but R&G is a terrible comparison, and DKSA is actually a great example of how, sometimes, a great work should just be left to be great, without sequels or prequels. (i have no real opinion about the watchmen prequels, but i think most of the criticisms about the series — or what it represents — are pretty good points.)


  78. @Prodigal: too late, i trademarked the hell out of it 5 minutes ago!


  79. @ Prodigal: my point was kind of that we don’t assign copyright based on who’s gonna make the more awesome thing out of it. The Watchmen prequels will suck compared to the original work, I think we can all be pretty sure of that…but if there’s an ethical bar to be cleared here, it’s got nothing to do with “quality”.


  80. He’s not saying he’s happy the Moore is unhappy, he’s saying he’s happy Moore isn’t involved. That these stories will be someone else’s stories, not Moore’s. He doesn’t celebrate Moore’s disapproval at all in those comments


  81. @michael doran: I emailed you with my reasons

    @Marc-Oliver Frisch: Don’t do that here, please. Or at least use sentences.


  82. [...] http://4thletter.net/2012/02/newsarama-needs-to-do-better/ [...]


  83. @david brothers: Right. Apologies for puking into your comments section.


  84. Of course, this entire discussion happens deep within the collective bellybutton that is fandom, but I welcome your positive attitude.


  85. @ben caldwell: I think he went with R&G because it was the best example he could think of for a derivative work having merit on its own. As for me, I’m going to reserve judgment on whether the prequels manage to do that or not until I’ve read them, because the writers and artists involved have earned that with the projects they’re worked on in the past.

    But seriously, get the Franklin richards writer and artist for Kid Hamlet. Shut up and take my money here. ;)

    @plok: Since the matter of assigning copyright has nothing to do with what I was talking about, all I can say in reply there is “Ok.”

    I share your sentiment that none of the prequels will be as great as the original series was, because the original set the bar too damn high for any derivative work to stand a realistic chance of bettering it. But that doesn’t automatically disqualify them from the possibility of their being good comics when considered on their own merits. We’ll just have to wait and see.


  86. [...] Last week we heard the big news that DC is going to be releasing Before Watchmen, a series of prequels about the adventures of everyone’s favorite dysfunctional vigilantes. The thing has been nothing less than controversial, erupting in anger from many and curiosity from others. This isn’t about that debate. There are other places for such a thing. [...]


  87. Apparently most comics fans share Marvel and DC’s contempt for creators’ rights, three cheers for Team Comics; the bankrupcy of mainstream superhero comics has never seemed so desirable.

    Comparing Watchmen with Dorothy or Nemo is a laughably dishonest argument because when Dorothy’s creator Frank Baum was alive HE had ownership over his creation, and Moore only used that character looong after it had lapsed into public domain; meanwhile, the creators of Watchmen have no say over their creations because they were screwed by DC, and DC will unilaterally profit from those creations while the creators are still very much alive. The pond scum at Marvel and DC are also actively lobbying to postpone indefinitely their copyrights’ lapse into public doman, so let’s not compare Watchmen with public-domain characters. When Moore used Dorothy, he didn’t write a “prequel” for the Wizard of Oz either; he brought a public-domain character and used it on an entirely different story that had very little, if anything, to do with the original. You didn’t even need to make the connection to enjoy Lost Girls. DC is doing no such thing, they’re just “filling in blanks” that didn’t need to be filled in the first place, against the express wishes of the character’s creator, with characters that shouldn’t belong to DC in the first place.

    If Alan Moore had written a direct porn version of “Wizard of Oz” WHILE Frank Baum was alive and AGAINST Baum’s express wishes, one could claim that these are similar issues; but in reality, there’s nothing in common between the two, and pretending otherwise (like at least one of DC’s groveling lackeys has done) smacks of intellectual dishonesty.

    I say LET Marvel and DC die, they can’t go bankrupt soon enough. Both companies were built over the bones of the creators they screwed, and both deserve nothing but contempt. And readers who don’t give a sh!t about the creators either, and just want an endless stream of corporate revisions of their “favorite characters”, should be ashamed of themselves. I understand the urge to defend the pushers who provide our steady fix of Batman, but come ON. This is just wrong, and Rorschach wishes DC had one single throat that he could wrap his hands around.


  88. @Leslie Fontenelle:

    Hey, I wish. They can’t go bankrupt; they can only be rolled deeper into Time-Warner or Disney.


  89. @Marein Baas:

    I don’t know what a “fandom” is. This is one of those Internet forum things that I never got. I think you have to really want to be part of a “fandom” for that term to mean anything.