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Before Watchmen: “there’s a war going on outside no man is safe from”

April 25th, 2012 by | Tags: , ,

This was going to be a simple round-up of a few recent posts on DC’s Before Watchmen, but ha ha, I realized I still have stuff to say. Sorry.

The other day, out in the hardest part of the tweets on the wrong side of the twacks, a comics pro tweeted that the conventional wisdom that sequels or prequels don’t affect the source material isn’t true, because now that he was aware of Before Watchmen, it was impossible to read Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen without that kicking around in the back of your head.

He’s right. Before Watchmen colors what came before it. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Mel Gibson outed himself as being cartoonishly racist and bigoted (and somehow so ultra-Catholic that he thinks the Pope isn’t Catholic enough, or something, which is definitely some supervillain-type thinking) has definitely changed Lethal Weapon, hasn’t it? If I buy that new box set, I’m putting money in the pocket of somebody who told his old lady that he hopes she gets raped by a pack of niggers. WHOA! Am I down with that?

And so it goes with Before Watchmen. A connection has been made, and even if you consciously put it out of your head, the fact that Before Watchmen exists is still there. The creators’ rights skullduggery, Moore & Gibbons being cheated out of profits, the creators involved who’ve been throwing ill-advised bombs… it absolutely affects the work. More than that, it affects other work. I was digging Spaceman by Azzarello and Risso. I like Amanda Conner’s work. Darwyn Cooke’s adaptations of Richard Stark’s Parker novels are more or less my favorite comics each year. I got that Martini Edition — have you seen that thing? It’s wonderful, easily the best packaged comic I’ve bought in ages. The next book, Parker: The Score, is probably one of my top 5 Parker novels. I’d like to read it.

But Before Watchmen makes me stop and start thinking about ideologies and differences of opinion, instead of the work. It doesn’t make me think that their work sucks. That’s stupid. They’re as talented as ever. But, like my newly complicated relationship with Frank Miller’s public persona and his work, I’ve got to think this through instead of just hitting pre-order on Amazon. Which sucks. “Ignorance is bliss,” right? Ugh.

Anyway, three must-read posts today. I have a round-up of stuff I’m reading & watching, but that’ll keep til tomorrow.


-Chris Roberson was interviewed by Tim Hodler over his… his whole situation, I guess. It’s a great interview. I’m super, super touched that I played even the smallest of small roles in him publicly parting ways with DC.

I can’t really summarize it, except to say that Chris has clearly thought all this stuff through and has a good head on his shoulders. I agree with him, obviously, and you may not, but I don’t think he says anything controversial or false. Please read it. It’s good, and a nice look at what it’s like making corporate comics. He spotlights Kurt Busiek’s fantastic idea about retroactive equity for creators, which I am 100% behind. I’m tired of hearing that the people who created characters I love are destitute and left begging for money every time they get sick. That’s pathetic, and a true failure of the comics industry and basic kindness. You made millions of dollars off a movie? Cool, then you can afford to chip in on the hospital bill of someone who helped turn a kernel of an idea into a comic that then became a movie.

Oh, and Roberson’s bit about there being no Creators section on DC’s website really says it all, don’t it? Welcome to Corporate Comics, 2012.

-Heidi Mac chimes in on Before Watchmen from an angle I hadn’t considered. I’ve had email conversations about this recently, actually, and they were eye-opening. I was born in 1983. I didn’t read Watchmen until… I dunno, 2004? I knew it was a Great Work, like I knew that Camus’ The Stranger or Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov are Great Works when I first read them. I didn’t know the actual history of the Great Work, just that I Needed To Read This.

Finding out that DC was pitching Watchmen as a triumph for creators’ rights while the entire community was rallying behind Jack Kirby feels like a sick joke in the light of Before Watchmen. At the time, it was, but then they saw dollar signs and whoops, sorry mates. Before Watchmen is a project that basically flies in the face of any type of advance in creators’ rights. It’s about prizing characters & concepts over creators, strip-mining history in an attempt to shore up today. In that light, Before Watchmen is the ultimate betrayal of what DC once claimed to stand for. It’s taking an icon for the creators’ rights movement and turning it into more grist for the mill.

It’s amazing how each new wrinkle from people who were around when Watchmen was making history and each new interview from DC Comics staff makes me like this project less and less. There’s so much… not lying, exactly, but dissembling and empty hype going on.

The Spacemen example is brutal, too. The only preview DC put out for that series was for the second issue? Even though that exact same team was hot off the best-received Flashpoint tie-in? Who is running things over there?

-Tom Spurgeon weighs in on the Roberson interview. Here’s a quick quote that I think is pretty good and relates well to Heidi’s point:

As much as you and I might shake our heads and do the Little Rascals surprise face when we hear someone say some of the things that have been said in support of and defense of Before Watchmen or the Superman lawsuit, imagine how distressing it would be if these were your creative partners, the people on which you hoped to build a foundation for a fulfilling life. The humor in the title is that Watchmen was seen as a creator-rights forward title with ambition; this new thing is certainly reflective of a time before that.

This is also must-reading.

True facts: I would have never written about Before Watchmen if not for Spurgeon. I don’t remember talking about it with him at Emerald City Comicon, but we probably did. But really, what prompted my posts was reading his “Sometimes They Make It Hard To Ignore Creators Issues”. Specifically, this: “I’m not sure I have much of a point here, except maybe please look at this. Look at this.”

That sparked something in me. “Look at this.” I took a look around to see what other people were saying and I realized that the sum total of Before Watchmen opposition online was Spurgeon, Eric Stephenson, and Abhay’s wonderful tumblr. I mean, we all had drive-by jokes on Twitter or in passing in posts… but organized dissent? The sort of thinkpieces that make comics internet interesting and valuable to me as a reader? Zilch.

So I looked at it. I sat down and thought about how I felt and dug up as much as I could on the history and I sat down and wrote The Ethical Rot Behind Before Watchmen & Avengers in maybe an hour and a half, if not an hour, on that Friday. I sent it to a few friends to read over and point out my mistakes and I edited it over the weekend. In between, though, JMS said something stupid about Alan Moore and I threw a jab. One jab turned into two. Two, eventually, turned into five posts about creators’ rights and Alan Moore.

It’s important that we talk about this, whether we is comics press or fans or creators, because no one else is going to. There’s something to be said for an objective press, sure, but part of the role of the press is looking at what the news actually means. Looking at trends, at history, at contradictions, at controversies. The comics press isn’t journalism, but we’re part of that same family tree.

So pointing out that there’s chicanery going on with Before Watchmen or how a company treats creators isn’t negativity. It’s doing our job. It’s shedding a light over wrongdoings that some people would rather were left in the past and unsaid. I mean, yo, if someone is lying in public, you nail them to the wall. You point that out. You don’t hem and haw about whether ethics matter. (They do, and you’re a moron if you think otherwise.) You look at the situation, you consider your own personal values, and you choose your position. You pick whatever feels right for you. There are no easy answers, no. But there are answers. Basic ones.

You like Before Watchmen? Fine! Cool. I get it. You don’t? Also cool! But it is vital that we talk out our positions on this issue. It is very much a creators’ rights issue, something that will have an effect on how the Big Two do business. If we can show them that we prefer that creative types be treated like people, we have a better chance of having a better, healthier comics industry.

So I want to publicly thank Tom Spurgeon for forcing me to put pen to paper, and Shannon O’Leary, writer of the PW piece and the person who asked the tough questions at the LA Times Festival of Books, for showing me that speaking out can actually have an effect in the real world.

I would like it very much if DC and Marvel had to answer as many questions about creators’ rights this year as they do about dumb plot twists and fan-favorite characters. If they dodge the question, they dodge it. But asking the question, and pulling apart their dodge, is honest work. It’s inside baseball, sure, but it’s also necessary. These questions need to be asked.

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34 comments to “Before Watchmen: “there’s a war going on outside no man is safe from””

  1. Not sure if I said it here or on twitter, but I’ve only recently been introduced to your stuff here at 4th Letter (thanks to Jeff & Graeme and the Wait, What? podcast), and I really appreciate your work here – particularly the recent posts on creators’ rights. I like that you are forthright in your opinions without demagogy – just thoughtful, reasoned, intelligent arguments.

    Thanks,

    chris


  2. You said the protesting if Before Watchmen isn’t that organized and you’re right, but it is more than just that handful making a fuss. My little-read blog has made it clear this is terrible, and other lesser- known blogs I frequent but love have also expressed much disgust at all of this. Part of the problem is how we are all pretty small-time, though. That’s why I’m thankful we have someone better-known like you, Mr. Brothers, to make sure people hear this isn’t all roses and candy with just a few people upset.


  3. I meant protesting of, stupid typos.


  4. I’m pretty sure that even if we were living in Universe B (where the creative employees of American comic companies are treated like any author/artist and given proper respect/royalties for their work remaining in print) and Moore and Gibbons were doing this instead I still wouldn’t believe that there is really all that much else to say about Rorschach and the rest of his dreary pals. That’s probably keeping me away from this even more than DC not even waiting for Moore to die before taking a dump in his Snake Temple.


  5. It would be interesting to read an interview with an executive who was around when Watchmen was published – someone like Jeanette Kahn. She’s doing film production now, but I think someone should try to get hold of her.


  6. I feel kinda weird writing this, since I can just holler at you from across our desks, but I figured I’d save our co-workers from a longer conversation. I also apologize in advance that I’m not good at writing out thoughts or feelings unless the subject involves pushing button to make images change on a monitor.

    Anyway, I’m total with you on your Mel Gibson example for someone’s actions affecting your view of their work. I used to really dig Rosemary’s Baby & Chinatown, but when I was in my mid-teens I learned that Roman Polanski is a convicted child rapist and fugitive. Will never give money to, or see, or even think about anything that comes out with his name on it. But what I’m confused on, in the context of this post (and I guess the general discussion as a whole) is why you primarily called out Darwyn’s work after mentioning this point. Is he the BW contributor you’re most conflicted with?

    In fact, I’m confused about the whole string of Darwyn attacks and drive-by gags that have been popping up around the net. You’re not guilty of this, but I see a lot of folks lumping him in with JMS and Azzarello as creators who have said some pretty dumb things in public. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the only words Darwyn has out in public regarding BW is that Rolling Stone interview. My takeaway from that was that while he doesn’t think it’s the best idea, the fact that BW was going to be made was uncontrollable and he can only try his hardest to make his contribution respect the original work as much as possible.

    Forget the “he should have said no” or “the project should never have happened in the first place” discussions for a second, but Darwyn has always struck me as straight up no bullshit dude who never phones it in when it comes to work. We know JMS’ track record on finishing books. We all read Azzarello’s questionable comments. Darwyn puts in work, does his best to respect what came before when working on other characters, and has stated as such publicly. In my eyes, he’s still a stand up dude regardless of taking on the BW project. What am I missing that gets him called out consistently, by name, alongside JMS/Azzarello/Lee and their nasty comments/attitudes by the internet at large?

    I’ve got little interest in Before Watchmen as a whole, but I added The Minutemen and Silk Spectre to my pull list specifically because I follow creators over characters (or publishers). This may be naïve, but I hope that my dollars are saying: “Give me more Amanda and Darwyn!” and not “Give me more Watchmen!”

    Ugh, ok time to go back to work. Sorry to stink up all your comment space, David, and thanks for letting me post. I hate trying to shoehorn complex thoughts into 140 characters.


  7. I won’t be buying or reading Before Watchman but I don’t think I will boycott the artist and writers involved. There has been a lot of art created by people who I either think are assholes or hold opinions I strongly disagree with. I think the best example for me is the writer Knut Hamsun. He wrote plenty of amazing books and won a Nobel Prize for them (Hunger, Pan, Mysteries, etc) and influenced generations of writers (Henry Miller, Hemingway, Auster, Hesse). He was also a Nazi Sympathizer. Granted all of his major work was written before this support was lent doesn’t quite make it right.

    I suppose this may be different because it is “work-related” dickery…hmmm.


  8. @Josh Richardson: Yeah, for me, it’s because out of everyone involved, Cooke is easily my favorite creator. Honestly, in comics period, he’s one of my faves. I’ve got special editions of both Parkers, PLUS the Martini edition, Absolute New Fronter… I’ve got his Solo kicking around here some where. He’s the guy whose work I’m most in tune with and whose work I have a close personal connection to, with Azz a close second. He’s also got a book coming out in like a month that i’ve really been looking forward to, so he’s much more on my mind than Azz, who had a series launch back in October or November.

    So it’s like… I dunno, I guess a comparable situation is that if I came up to you like “Yo, Street Fighter is stupid and everyone who plays it is stupider” during one of our in-depth fight game conversations. (It’s not exactly comparable, but sorta vaguely similar?) I imagine that you’d be confused and conflicted, like “Wait, what am I missing here? Where’s the difference in opinion come from? I thought we were boys!”

    It’s like that for me. I dunno about anybody else. I’ve honestly avoided talking about the creative teams involved specifically just because like… they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do to keep the lights on, and I respect that, to an extent. It’s just weird that they’re involved in this thing that I feel hurts creators in the long run, and a project I didn’t think they’d be down for judging by other comments/general impressions of who they are and how they work, and I still haven’t worked out how I feel about it. Cooke, Azz, and Conner especially have done some of my favorite books, and I’ve been reading the Kuberts since I was a kid and got a gang of X-Men and ancient Sgt Rocks. It’s that weird thing where you know someone’s work really well and get attached, and when they do something that’s not what you expected, and not in a good way, there’s this weird break, like a subtle crack in a mirror. “This doesn’t look right, and I can’t figure out why.”

    I think for everyone else, part of it is that Cooke’s been positioned as the overseer of the project by DC, like Azzarello was for First Wave or Johns is for Green Lantern. So while JMS is the biggest, fattest, loud mouth in the crew, Cooke is the guy who DC says is the boss, or at least guiding the project to whatever extent. But I think that, as far as this argument goes for me, is beside the point and short sighted. The problem for me is an industry-level thing, it’s DC or Marvel or whoever dicking people over and reaping the rewards. I see where some folks come from, but “He sold his soul!” is straight out of 9th grade as far as I’m concerned. I think there’s a point to be made with regard to the creators involved, but I honestly have no idea what it is or how to approach it. I’m crystal clear on how I feel about DC on this subject, but I’m fuzzy on the creators.

    I can even sympathize with his point that if somebody was going to do it, somebody with talent should, rather than the DC Z-Team. Frank Miller had a similar train of thought when he signed on to make Eisner’s The Spirit.

    A lot of this I’m still trying to figure out, personally. Whether or not Vertigo or Icon are allowed, whether I can get away with writing about old Marvel comics, and yeah, this too. It’s the hardest part of the whole equation for me, and so hard to reconcile.

    @David Bitterbaum: No, yeah, you’re right. I should’ve been more clear. I meant the (this is going to sound dickish but I really don’t mean it that way) major comics news sites–CBR, Newsarama, and them. 4l! isn’t that big, I don’t think, and especially not compared to them. That’s what I meant about public and organized dissent. DC and Marvel can ignore 4thletter! all day, but good luck ignoring Newsarama, you know?

    @Chris Beckett: Thanks man. I don’t want to tell anybody what to do, exactly, so much as explain where I’m coming from and let them make their own decision. We’re all adults, and we all need different things to feel good/right about our lives. This works for me right now. I feel like I made a good decision, and I’m super, super appreciative when people write in to say “Hey, I liked that you’re thinking this through,” even if they go on to say “It made me think about it, but I’m not where you are just yet.” or whatever. Thanks for reading.


  9. @Shannon: Yeah, I dig where you’re coming from. I like Ezra Pound’s Cantos a whole lot, and found out later that he was a vicious anti-semite and fascist. I haven’t reread his work in a while thanks to that, actually.

    It’s always a case-by-case basis for me. I plan to go my entire life without reading another JMS comic, but I’ll probably read that Frank Miller Xerxes when it drops.

    Maybe. I said that about Holy Terror and regretted it. So maybe not.


  10. @david brothers: Ah, thanks for the clarification man. I’ve gotten your point on past articles on the subject, but I guess this one is where I fall into the “made me think, but not entirely with you” crowd. But then I’m not as immersed in the comic world as you either. Working for a publisher made me pull back a long time ago.

    Oh course, that doesn’t stop me from getting myself mad by reading comment threads or checking Twitter. I had one of those little shocks too when, after seeing what felt like a wave of 9th grade-level attacks on Cooke, I saw a Brandon Graham tweet calling Darwyn a joke. I don’t know him personally, but dude is high up my list of favorite creators and it was really disappointing to see someone who’s work I respect stoop to name calling. But in the end, getting mad at immature reactions is my fault and the ultimate lesson is that I should just stay off the internet. ;)

    Yes, the irony is killing me inside right now :negativeman:

    PS: “Yo, Street Fighter is stupid and everyone who plays it is stupider” mentality is basically the summation of why I don’t go to SRK anymore. Fighting game culture is so gross.


  11. I’m still getting some of Before Watchmen, despite the circus surrounding it. I’d say I felt ashamed, but really, no one should be ashamed to buy what they want when it comes to comics.

    This whole circus, along with discussions of it at various sites, has made me think about if any of the behind-the-scenes stuff affects my comic buying habits, or my enjoyment of comics.

    I’ve determined that it does not. In the end, while I am enjoying this insight, I don’t care about the politics of it all. I just want to enjoy the content I’m paying for.

    I’m curious if anyone else feels the same way.

    (That said, I do enjoy reading the articles here)


  12. Something I should have said, might clarify, might not.

    I won’t argue the big two can be quite… amoral.

    I just don’t let that affect my comic-buying habits when I come across a story about them I personally don’t like. I know a lot of people who will boycott books for that.


  13. @david brothers:

    Ah, I get you now. Yeah, it’ll be a cold day in Hell before Newsarama says anything negative about Before Watchmen besides that they are going to do a interview putting aside the controversy. Now that’s dickish, don’t worry about you sounding that way.


  14. Great article as always, man.

    Various responses to various points:

    “it absolutely affects the work. More than that, it affects other work.”

    Yes. I think it’s a matter of degrees on all this stuff, though. Will Before Watchmen affect the sum total of how I understand the original work? Yeah. Will I randomly think about Before Watchmen when I’m rereading the original work? Probably, yeah, from time to time. But will it RUIN the original work? No way. I’ll still be able to separate the actual work on the page from all of the things I know about the real world, including the existence of Before Watchmen. I’ll also be able to separate Watchmen from Alan Moore the man. But I guess all of that just takes a bit of active effort, which wouldn’t be required if there wasn’t distasteful reality to cloud our understandings of works of art.

    In thinking about the creators involved in Before Watchmen: again, I would say it’s a matter of degrees. I applaud the integrity and effort it must take to do a boycott on this (or on anything else), but I’m just not to that point. I’ll still buy DC comics; it’s just that Before Watchmen makes me less happy to do so, and that will effect prospective purchases that are on the edge for me. Same with the creators involved. I’m less likely to purchase work from them, simply because doing so would entail that I expend a bit more active effort in removing the factoid of “They did Before Watchmen” from my mind.

    And, personally, I don’t buy the “They have to do what’s necessary to put food on the table” argument. Not for these creators. They’re all A- and B-listers. Darwyn Cooke could have picked another project. Definitely. So could the Kuberts, Conner, Hughes, JMS–ALL of ‘em.

    “There’s so much… not lying, exactly, but dissembling and empty hype going on.”

    Absolutely. It’s the “empty hype” that pisses me off the most. Not just about Before Watchmen, but about almost EVERYTHING the Big Two have done over the last half decade. Marvel is more guilty of this than DC, although Before Watchmen is definitely the high watermark of emptiness. I understand the moral issues about creators’ rights — and I agree with 90% of what that contingent is saying — but for me it seems even more obvious that things like Before Watchmen are bad ideas just based on the empty hype alone. In order to dismiss these projects, we shouldn’t even HAVE to argue about the fine details of contracts and creators’ rights (although it’s GOOD that we are). It should be obvious on the face of it that these are bad, loud, stupid ideas.

    “The humor in the title is that Watchmen was seen as a creator-rights forward title with ambition; this new thing is certainly reflective of a time before that.”

    Yeah. And just in general, over the last few days I’ve been turning the title around in my head with similar results: Even in terms of creativity and seriousness, it does feel like we’re transitioning back to a time BEFORE Watchmen changed the game for the better.

    Lastly, about Ezra Pound. I agree that his support of Mussolini (if not Hitler?) was of course atrocious. I’m not an expert on him, but I think that he did have some criticisms of the U.S. that were actually kind of insightful. I’m not defending Pound, but I think there was definitely a movement going way back to totally discredit him not so much before he was pro-fascist but because he was a threat to the U.S. establishment. I just think it’s a complicated issue with him (and with a lot of similar problematic geniuses). He has awful qualities and made awful statements, no doubt. But he was such a smart guy that it’s worth picking through his work anyway. I can’t even think of anything that I AGREE with Pound on, but much of his thought was nuanced and thoughtful enough to just pay attention to in a way that Frank Miller blaming Muslims for the recession is not interesting or worth your time.


  15. EDIT: I meant “not so much BECAUSE he was pro-fascist”.


  16. Josh, Abhay collected a bunch of statements Darwyn made that, while not about Before Watchmen per se, certainly illustrate that something changed between the time he said those things and the time he agreed to the project:

    http://watchmen2creatordarwyncooke.tumblr.com/

    JMS is definitely doing all the other creators a favor by being SUCH a jerk about the project and Alan Moore and Moore’s body of work. They all come out looking good when compared to him.

    Regarding Darwyn Cooke though, I’m kind of confused by his presence because while I think he’s the closest DC has to A-List talent on the book (David, I think you and I disagree about how good some of these creators are, but then, I am measuring ‘em all against the Moore/Gibbons team), he’s also the one guy on that roster who could totally, absolutely be doing his own Watchmen.

    Like, “New Frontier” wasn’t exactly Watchmen, but it was good and popular enough to be super-successful on it’s own, and create a little alternate universe for DC to exploit, including making a cartoon movie out of. I don’t understand why, if DC could get Cooke to commit to writing eight issues of comics and drawing four they didn’t want him to do something akin to a new New Frontier for them, or, I don’t know, a “Batman: Year One”-like tone/design establishing story arc on Superman, Batman, Justice League or one of the 52 (FIFTY-TWO!!) books they just relaunched. They couldn’t have made one of those 52 new books Whatever The Hell Darwyn Wants To Do…?

    While he’s probably the biggest argument DC can make that these books won’t be completely awful (again, compared to the original; I like Amanda Conners’ art as much as the next guy, but I’ve never thought, “There’s the cartoonist to do a sequel to Watchmen!”), ironically he’s probably the biggest talent to waste on this project…


  17. I think Darwyn Cooke is doing this as an act of revenge.


  18. @caleb: I must admit I’m not familiar with Abhay, but I’ve seen that tumblr mentioned in the comments section of a few of the BW articles floating around, and honestly this looks like someone trying to bolster their agenda. Maybe agenda is too strong of a word, but it looks like it was intentionally set up to paint Darwyn in a negative light.

    “Watchmen 2 Creator” in front of Darwyn’s name sounds intentionally misleading, like he is the guy that came up with the entire concept. Might be kind of confusing to folks who are fresh into the conversation looking for more info.

    Placing each quote with a cover for a title that Cooke isn’t even involved in? Why, because the Comedian is smiling like a troll face? Is it supposed to be ironic?

    And worst of all, there’s no context for any of these quotes. No dates. No links. No thanks, that’s shady business. If you’re going to quote someone to illustrate a point, context is key.

    As to your second point, that’s all hindsight isn’t it? He’s also been quoted a couple of times that he has a sequel to New Frontier in mind, but for reasons unknown to us ordinary folk it hasn’t been made. Personally, I’d LOVE to see more New Frontier rather than, well, pretty much anything the Big Two are putting out. But BW was the project they offered, and Cooke already laid out his side of how that went down in the Rolling Stone interview. It’s not necessarily a waste of talent when it was his decision to contribute stories.

    Meanwhile, in the world before Before Watchmen, Darwyn’s been trucking on some of the best work of his life in the Parker books, with the ocasional single issue or anthology contribution here or there. He found a story to tell, and he says he’s going to do his best to respect the original work. Judging from his track record, I’m inclined to believe him.

    Plus, it’s not like BW is his last comic forever or anything. We have at least one more sweet, sweet Parker book to look forward to after The Score. :smile:


  19. @Josh Richardson: “My takeaway from that was that while he doesn’t think it’s the best idea, the fact that BW was going to be made was uncontrollable and he can only try his hardest to make his contribution respect the original work as much as possible.”

    That defense certainly buries the lede, doesn’t it? It rests on the assumption/acknowledgement that DC is going to do this regardless of whether the books are any good. That line of reasoning implies that DC would hire any hack or mercenary to ensure BW is released. If that is the case, and this defense is founded on BW being nothing more than a cash/hype grab, then why grant BW the imprimatur of quality and legitimacy that comes from A-list creators like Cooke and Azzarello who are known for quality work being onboard?


  20. DC should have gotten rid of the whole Before Watchmen theme. Including Watchmen in any title is going to open up a can of worms. I would have preferred Cooke do the Minutemen series and MAYBE put the Silk Spectre material as a back up. That’s it. Everything else seems unnecessary.

    Don’t get me wrong Rorschach seems like it will be amazing and I LOVE anything done by a Kubert, but I can’t imagine them doing anything for the original comics.

    After reading Watchmen I would have killed to read a Minutemen book by Moore. They were the only characters in the comics that left me wanting more. Obviously Moore knew this since he was planning on doing a book about them. So why not keep the creators original intent and publish a Minutemen book and leave everything else alone? Why be so greedy DC?

    I know I’ll be buying Minutemen when it’s released as a tpb. I won’t be able to help myself, because one it’s done by my favorite artist/writer and it’s something I’ve always wanted to read. Everything else gives me a queasy feeling to my stomach.


  21. @Josh Richardson: Actually, there are links back to the source for every entry on http://watchmen2creatordarwyncooke.tumblr.com/

    They’re legit, and whatever you think of the presentation, pretty amusing in light of his current project. There’s not a person breathing who isn’t a hypocrite, but rarely do you get to see it illustrated so starkly*.

    *No pun nintendo


  22. It’s kind of amusing watching DC put on a magic show for everyone. Hope the finale includes sawing JMS in half.

    Am I alone in thinking that none of the creators involved in BW would ever, ever, ever approach DC with a project that they thought would be half as popular/potentially lucrative as Watchmen?

    My initial objection to BW was that DC was doing this instead of…oh, I dunno…anything else. I realize that was the kneejerk, naive reaction of my inner fan that for some reason or another still holds out hope for a new concept by DC or Marvel. I had to sit him down and explain things like corporate trademarks and the fact that DC and Marvel’s parent companies bought characters, not comics and that they could pull the plug on the floppy dead trees at any time and make way more money doing Batman movies.

    In any case, I think the lack of anything really, truly new coming from DC and the fact that they assembled a pretty strong talent pool for BW constitutes a tacit admission by these creators. They are admitting, essentially, that they get it. They’ll do the job, they’ll do the best they can and they’ll earn their paychecks like they do for every other job on any other book.

    What they absolutely will not do is put themselves in line to be the next Moore, Ditko, Gerber, Siegel, Shuster, Kirby, or whoever else has gotten a shit deal on the product of their creativity. Creators today have the benefit of instant information and the scope of history. They know full well the nature of the beast and, though they may be its custodians, they will not feed it their prize cow or the best cabbage from their garden. There’s simply nothing in it for them and they know it.


  23. @James W: Oh, dang, you’re right about those links. Caleb, my apologies for being a dumbass. Now if y’all will excuse me, I’m going use all this egg on my face to cook some breakfast.


  24. @Josh Richardson: Brandon’s probably one of my favorite creators out there too, and it caught me a little off guard when he said that as well. Thing is, none of these creators are really in a position where they’ve got to do a job like this to eat and pay bills. So either they’re doing it out of greed or because they’ve got a story to tell.

    The first argument, I think, takes care of itself. The second argument is pretty worthless when Alan’s said he doesn’t want it to be done.

    And looking at it this way, it’s really hard for me to disagree with Graham. Cooke’s just a whole lot better at looking good in the public eye than JMS is.


  25. And I say that it’s worthless when Alan’s said he doesn’t want it to be done mostly because these folks all claim to love and respect him so much.


  26. @Dan Coyle:

    Revenge for what?


  27. @David Fairbanks: I can sort of see your point when it comes to someone like JMS, who’s already dug himself a big hole of bad feelings, but with Darwyn I have to disagree. I’m curious (and here’s where things get really sticky) is why we don’t see the comic internet vilifying Dave Gibbons. By this argument, shouldn’t he be lumped in with the other creators in this backlash for approving of the project against Alan’s wishes?


  28. @Josh Richardson:
    Like I said, Cooke is smart, he knows better than to talk like JMS, but his involvement in Before Watchmen conflicts a lot of folk who’ve liked, even loved, his other work, as it puts him as part of the problem with big two comics. It also borders on hipocrisy with the steps he took to make Parker faithful to the original, honoring the intent of Westlake/Stark so well that he let Cooke use the Parker name, a first for adaptations of the fifty-year-old character.

    Gibbons shouldn’t be lumped in because Watchmen is partially his. I find it really hard to believe it was a 50/50 collaboration, especially considering just how dense Moore’s scripts are, but it was still a collaboration. He helped create these things and it’s entirely in his right to support this in the same way it’s in Alan’s right to oppose it. I’m curious about his motivations, because I think the simplest argument against Before Watchmen is the big “why,” and I don’t see Gibbons having an argument other than “why not,” which carries with it the answer of “because your collaborator is very much opposed to it.”

    I’m not going to lie, though, mainstream comics has gotten in the habit of shifting emphasis from a collaboration to a writer first who has an artist draw his ideas (see Brothers’ piece on Daredevil, for instance), and this probably has at least some sway on why people are glossing over Gibbons too. To many people, it’s not Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, it’s Alan Moore’s Watchmen.

    I realize I went around in a few circles there, but hopefully I made some sense?


  29. @David Fairbanks: Absolutely! I suspected the same thing regarding Gibbons’ being glossed over in discussions.

    Between your and The David Brothers’ (we’re calling you that now, right, DB?) replies I’m starting to understand. Appreciate your patience clearing up some of these viewpoints for me.


  30. @James W:

    That one where he references Kevin Smith is particularly damning, considering Smith was reportedly offered a Before Watchmen book.


  31. The “it DOES affect how you think about the original work” point is a good one, I think.

    When a bunch of people were ranting about Kevin Smith’s peeing-Batman retcon and how it ruined a classic scene in Year One, I pooh-poohed it and said no it didn’t, Year One’s right there, unchanged.

    But then I watched the animated adaptation of Year One, and damned if I didn’t think “Batman just pissed himself.”

    The complainers were right. Kevin Smith’s retcon may have had no affect on anybody reading/watching Year One while blissfully unaware of Widening Gyre, but for those of us who DID read it, it permanently (and, I would assume in most cases, negatively) impacted our enjoyment of the original.

    And yeah, the Roberson interview is great and Busiek’s comment about equity is just fantastic (as indeed are his comments throughout that section — I see people pull out this “Comics creators should unionize” talk everywhere but didn’t realize it’s actually illegal to do so; seems like I learn something new every time Kurt Busiek shows up in a comments thread). Indeed, it seems like rather a nice comments section; frankly I’m a little embarrassed at myself for how much time I spent arguing with people in the thread at your CA article.

    Good bringing up Spurgeon; he’s been great on this. Bissette’s the guy who convinced me to boycott Kirby-derived Marvel product after the summary judgement last summer (I’m still picking up Deadpool), and Sturm’s comments were incisive too.

    It really is great that there seems to be a rising chorus of voices here. I don’t think there’s going to be any big change here, but I like to think we’re looking at the biggest shift toward creator-owned books since the Image exodus.

    We haven’t really seen the kind of exodus this time that we did then — I can only think of two A-list creators who’ve gone pure creator-owned, Kirkman and Millar. But most of the big names at Marvel are doing Image books on the side, and I think that’s great.


  32. Here’s one more Before Watchmen piece for your roundup: Sean Witzke.


  33. Once again, thanks for the great commentary and highlighting this issue as it unfolds on the Internet.

    I know what you mean about purchase anxiety. The last DC book I read on a regular basis (now I’m just flat-out refusing to buy any of their stuff) was All-Star Western. I recently tried to buy an issue but, instead of thinking of the comic itself, my mind went to Tony Dezuniga and how his family is asking for donations for his hospital bills and how he doesn’t even own this character and my purchase wouldn’t even reach his pocket and I couldn’t do it. It was like that moment that vegetarians have when they are no longer able to compartmentalize and separate the burger from the cow. The become the same and one effects the other instead of things existing in separate, unrelated states. I like feeling this way because its irresponsible to deliberately live in ignorance when other people are effected. But I also agree that being aware makes it difficult. Like you, I am a huge, huge fan of Brian Azzarello and Darwyn Cooke and that these cats are making comics I will never read is a bit of a drag but I legit think this is a real issue, worthy of a bit of diligence. Also, Im boycotting Frank Miller for good but that’s a slightly easier pill to swallow because his ability to write scripts that didn’t insult my intelligence died 15 years ago so I wont miss much.

    A thing I noticed with these fucked up DC apologists is that their arguments are almost political or philosophical when you start breaking down and analyzing their rationale. They are either just excusing their own childish desire for more superhero comics they recognize or else OK with predatory capitalism but, in that last case, they have that same “might makes right” value set that Republicans stick to when they try to justify corporate malfeasance as a completely valid result of the free market, like cutthroat, underhanded tactics are not only permissable but GOOD in some kind of perverse, darwinian sense. Being a human being with a sense of fairplay and not, you know, a WOLF, I think this is fucking repugnant, it sickens me to my core, but I think its kind of interesting that when you take a step back and examine “WHY do these shitbags think what they do?” it takes on almost a socio-political dimension. These people who think that Warner Bros. running roughshod over the family of Superman’s creators and one of the greatest talents in comic book history is well and good because its within the letter of the law and the smarter party won… it chills me but it also steels my resolve.

    I think there’s gonna be a sea change where, to a greater extent than ever before and in more absolute terms, a new generation of young comics pros will have to make choices that are based not just on financial pragmatism but ideological parameters. Your self-respect and the respect afforded your work will depend on how well you and the people you work with agree on bigger shit than just the paycheck.


  34. @david brothers: Yeah, I think separating artists from their private lives and real world decisions (or not) is entirely case by case and individual / related to whichever causes you may be most passionate about. I can’t read Ted Hughes poems ever because he burned Silvia Plath’s diaries — that’s it, no internal debate, done deal. But then I’m OK with reading Cerebus for some reason. Maybe it’s because Dave Sim never actively hurt anyone.

    But, point being, there’s a legitimate and practical political statement in not economically supporting a business you disagree with, and doing so has a good chance of bringing about real consequences for the business, as you point out (and I’m with you on this one). Not sure if there’s an equally practical, straight-from-high-school-civics-class result to boycotting an artist. It’s more about whether opening that Parker book gives you joy or makes your stomach flip flop.