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if newsarama knew better, it would do better

April 16th, 2012 by | Tags: , ,

I wrote a thing this weekend about some frankly laughable and odious comments Joseph Michael Straczynski made about Alan Moore and Dan Didio made about Before Watchmen on a DC panel at C2E2. I wrote about it because like… it’s obvious, right? They’re actually saying stupid and demonstrably false things in public and expecting us to nod our heads. That’s worth pointing out.

I took a trip around comicsinternet to see who else noticed and remarked on what JMS had to say. Here’s my answer, from an interview between Vaneta Rogers and Brian Azzarello, two people whose work I’ve greatly enjoyed in the past:

Newsarama: Brian, I know this is a little weird. But I’m going to do a Before Watchmen interview without talking about the so-called “controversy,” because I think we’ve covered that pretty well, don’t you?

Brain Azzarello: Yeah, and you know, everyone talked about this controversy, but there really hasn’t been much of one. I mean, I don’t read everything that people are saying.

Nrama: Obviously, the project’s moving forward no matter where the discussion goes. So let’s talk about the project instead. And to start, let me admit that I’m one of those people who read Watchmen years after it was published. A newcomer, I suppose.

This is the opening exchange in the interview. And… cool. I guess this is how it’s going to be. Any dissent to Before Watchmen classified as a “so-called scare quotes controversy scare quotes,” doubly negating it (because it isn’t a controversy, you see, and also, it isn’t a controversy), and as a controversy, something that has been hard to notice.

Actually, you know what? I’ll actually give Azzarello that point, that thing about there not really having been much of a controversy. I mean, I read a lot of comics news sites, people shoot me links to ones I don’t read when juicy stuff goes up… and here’s, as near as I can tell, the sum total of the organized dissent (meaning extended posts that are explicitly about the subject, rather than passing jokes/hate/whatever) against Before Watchmen in the comics media:

-Tom Spurgeon’s “Sometimes They Make It Hard To Ignore Creators Issues” and “Twenty-One Not Exactly Original Notes On More Watchmen, Written At A Slight Remove”
-Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson’s “NO FUN”
-Chris Mautner’s “We’ve come so far: On Before Watchmen and creators rights”
-Rich Johnston’s “The Ethics Of Before Watchmen”
-Mindless Ones’ “‘The Second Coming of Night Owl’, and other stories…”
-Tom Bondurant’s “Grumpy Old Fan | Set your clocks back”

Newsarama’s top dawg editor Lucas Siegel is on record as preferring to use Alan Moore’s great big British wizard tears instead of alcohol when he needs to get tore up, so the lack of dissent there is understandable. But unless I missed something major, even CBR proper (Robot6 being a subordinate but separate blog), The Beat, and my beloved sometime employer ComicsAlliance are thus far mum on the issue as far as dissent goes, but have still posted all the promo images, making for de facto approval.

There’s been a real failure of the comics press to address Before Watchmen from any angle but that of a hype man. Sure, some of us have tweeted about it, but where are the essays? We all know it’s going to sell gangbusters, but that’s no reason to avoid facing the issue head on.

So, in the interest of turning phrases like the “so-called ‘controversy'” into something that’s actually worth discussing like adults, here. Here’s (an abbreviated version of) my argument against Before Watchmen, which is shared in some form or another by many other comics readers and creators I know. The specifics may differ, but that’s on them. Here’s where I’m coming from. Your mileage may vary, but after this, you don’t get to deny a single solitary thing.

The Facts

1. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen is an enormously successful comic book, on creative, critical, and commercial levels
2. Moore and Gibbons both signed a contract that gave DC the rights to Watchmen until the book went out of print for a year (I believe), at which point they’d receive the rights back
3. Watchmen was an unheralded success, and the book has yet to go out of print. As a result, Moore and Gibbons never got their rights back.
4. DC promised to share revenue from Watchmen-related merchandise, and then went ahead and produced merchandise and classified it as promotional and didn’t give M&G anything
5. These shenanigans, along with a coming ratings system that Moore disagreed with, led Moore to cut ties with DC entirely
6. DC brought Wildstorm, which came along with America’s Best Comics. Moore felt that leaving DC again would screw his artists over, so he stuck around
7. DC continued screwing with Moore over the years, from pulping his comics to either sabotaging (or botching to such an extent that it might as well be sabotage) the release of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier
8. Moore cut ties again, and has consistently refused DC’s money, overtures, and renegotiations.
9. Before Watchmen is a series of prequels to Watchmen, some thirty-five issues that will shed light on characters from the book
10. Alan Moore gives grumpy, hyperbolic interviews, but his basic point is that he’d prefer it not happen (and not because he wants money [he doesn’t, by his own word] but because it’s shameless and ugly).
11. For all his faults, Paul Levitz refused to let Before Watchmen happen on his watch. As soon as he left, it was on.
12. Before Watchmen has an economic motivation, not an artistic one. No one said “Boy, I have this great Nite Owl story.” Dan Didio said, “Hey, we need to make more money, and Watchmen is just sitting there. Who do we have who wants to sign on for fat cash?”

I think we can all agree on all of this? If you don’t agree, sorry bro. Open whatever history book they hide comics history in. I’m no scholar and even I know all of this is on the record as being true and consistent, barring the quotes, which I’m sure are true in spirit.

There are a few things that people, mainly DC staff and Joseph Michael Straczynski, like to bring up with scabrous intensity and frequency.

Not The Issue

1. The comics aren’t going to be good as the original! (Who cares? It’s not about quality, and maybe they’ll be enjoyable on their own.)
2. The creators involved suck! (Yeah, Darwyn Cooke, Brian Azzarello, Amanda Conner, and Jae Lee are b-list now? Get real. They do great work. I can give you a list. I’ll grant you JMS and Len Wein, though.)
3. Alan Moore copies peoples characters, too! (It’s not about working on someone else’s properties, and this is a false equivalency, anyway. Moore isn’t writing Dracula 2 or Before Moby Dick. He’s using public domain characters — meaning characters whose creators enjoyed the fruits of their labor before dying and the characters passing into public domain, not characters who were effectively stolen by way of shady contracts and lawyering — in new ways. When he does use non-PD characters, it’s never by name. If you don’t know who they are, you won’t know who they are. That’s demonstrably different than some dude writing Nite Owl: What Happened Before.)
4. Alan Moore is just greedy! (If he was greedy, he’d have taken a quarter million dollar [or however much] payout when DC offered it.)
5. Alan Moore is arrogant and sitting on the moral high ground. (“Please stop screwing me” is the opposite of arrogance and the moral high ground.)

These are false arguments. People might have said them in passing, or as part of a larger argument, but they aren’t the meat of why so many people have problems with Before Watchmen. These are strawmen that DC has propped up to be shot down, so as to murder any dissent in its crib. Last weekend, DC brought out a “mildly skeptical fan” (read: paid plant, shill, scrub, faker, liar, fool) who expressed concern. They showed him some art on the panel and WHOA! They beat the skeptic! Everybody, they beat the skeptic! They win! Before Watchmen is a good idea now!

That’s how strawmen work. You beat them up for a cheap victory in front of the rubes. The rubes, in this case, being whoever it is you think isn’t quite convinced by your press rollout just yet. Alongside these strawmen, DC staff, Dan Didio especially, has been crowing about how opposition has been minimal. How everyone who had concerns was soon convinced otherwise. He never names names. Who was concerned? Who was convinced? Where are these paragons of virtue, that they might deliver unto us wisdom?

The Controversy

Here’s the controversy, put as plainly as I can muster right now. You might have pedantic issues with specifics of this due to my phrasing, but suck it up. We’re all adults here. You know what i’m saying.

“The problem with Before Watchmen is that DC Comics cheated Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons out of the rights to Watchmen. Gibbons is fine with this, as is his right to be, and Moore is upset, as is also his right. Before Watchmen, therefore, is exploiting characters gained through the same shady means that have punctuated the comics industry over the years. The comics industry has screwed over dozens of creators, and Before Watchmen is just another screwjob. The broadsides against Alan Moore from JMS are disgusting, and Dan Didio’s dog and pony show to ameliorate doubts are laughably see-thru.”

Get it? We all feel strongly about creators’ rights. At least, I hope so. This is, at its most basic level, a creators’ rights issue. It’s about respecting creators, their work, and the product of that work.

I had a conversation with a pro creator at Emerald City Comicon. He explained the Before Watchmen situation like this: Alan Moore is one of the most respected writers in comics. He has co-created, revamped, or introduced tons of things that have enriched both the medium and the artform. His books are routinely some of the best-crafted works around, even if they’re not to your or my tastes, and he’s one of the few writers in the running for GOAT. But when he says, “Hey, listen. Please don’t do more Watchmen. I’ve been mistreated by DC, and I think the book stands very well on its own besides,” the response from DC and the creative teams involved is essentially, “No, fuck you, Alan.”

I don’t know how to feel about a lot of creators I respect and like working on these books. On the one hand, do what you gotta do to feed your family. But on the other… isn’t there some better way to go about doing that? I’m conflicted. But this is an ugly situation.

I don’t know how to put it any plainer. DC Comics is screwing Alan Moore right here in front of us, and the best Newsarama has to offer is that it’s a “so-called ‘controversy'”? One, it is a controversy, and two, you don’t just not talk about the controversy because the books are going to come out anyway. What kind of fatalist, ridiculous garbage is that? I mean, gosh, you don’t tell somebody with cancer, “Look, we both know you got some cancers up in there, so why don’t we talk about the weather, instead?”

And no. You don’t do that. You talk about the cancer, you treat the cancer, you tear it out and stamp on it until it’s gone. Until it’s a memory of a time when Marvel could tell Jack Kirby to give up any rights he was owed, when Marvel could promise Frank Miller that Elektra was going to stay dead and then bring her back anyway, when Ditko disappeared from mainstream comics, when Moore & Gibbons were cheated out of what they’re owed, and when editors used creators like chess pieces because they were eager to get the books out on time, instead of like people who they thought could do a great job.

It’s 2012. A lot of things have changed since Siegel & Shuster got their raw deal. But not enough has changed, clearly, if we’re still having this same old stupid conversation.

“Should comics companies get to screw over creators? Sure, as long as I get my tights and fights on time.” Okay then. If that’s your position, fine. I don’t think you have to agree with me. But to pretend like there isn’t any real opposition to this, from both fans and peers, makes you a liar, so you should maybe keep that in mind when talking about this. And if they don’t want to answer your questions, you ask them why they don’t want to answer your questions. Why why why. Make them go on the record.

“DC Comics screwed, and is screwing, Alan Moore.”

That’s the controversy. Now let’s talk it out instead of pretending like it doesn’t exist.

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108 comments to “if newsarama knew better, it would do better”

  1. :damn: Way to put exactly what I’ve been thinking about this situation in the most succinct and classy way possible. Whatever you think about Moore or whatever jokes about him you like to tell, he’s done as much for comics as any living writer. It’s a damn shame to see his self-contained classic story being shat on like this, and even worse to consider that shit like this can still be happening for so long.


  2. agreed.


  3. Yep. Yep, that’s exactly right.

    I haven’t been too impressed with their moves lately, but there *are* some DC books I had some interest in checking out at some point. But this whole situation has me really grossed out and I don’t know if I can stomach giving them any more money now. How many ways could DC have generated some hype and sales? If they chose to truly be creative/innovative, that is? But instead… this. I believe that you can do good business and also do the right thing, and I wish more readers would hold the publishers to that standard when they’re deciding which company to give their spending money to.


  4. I think Alan Moore can make, and has made some really stupid, immature, and frankly ignorant remarks about comics and specific comic book creators. Which is sad, because that’s part of what people use to argue against his wishes with Before Watchmen, and it’s just not the same thing. I might think “Hey, Alan Moore is grumpy about this series coming out,” but in this case all of his ill humour on the matter is perfectly justified.

    And for anyone who argues that Moore and Gibbons made a mistake by signing a contract that says “a year after it goes out of print” instead of just “a year later,” remember that’s hindsight. It’s easy to say they made a mistake now, but in the moment that was a huge improvement over the “you will never ever get the rights for any reason” position of most contracts. Also, keep in mind that DC’s bad faith behavior gives reason to believe that even if the contract had given the rights after an ironclad period of time, regardless of circumstances…DC would probably have looked for underhanded tactics to change that or gone to court over it.


  5. Hi David: in addition to Chris Mautner’s piece (thanks for the link!) Tom Bondurant at Robot 6 also talked about the project, but from a different angle than Chris:

    http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2012/02/grumpy-old-fan-set-your-clocks-back/


  6. @JK Parkin: Ah, you’re right! I missed that one while googling and wracking my memory earlier. I’ve edited it in. Thanks for reminding me.

    @Tales to Enrage: Yeah, I think Moore is wrong on modern comics and a few other things, and I don’t even particularly like his comics any more. But that’s beside the point, right? This is about one specific instance, not his entire life. He can grump all he wants and criticize things out of ignorance, because he’s a regular old human being. That doesn’t mean he deserves to be screwed.


  7. Slam dunk. Before Watchmen is artistic fruit of the poisonous tree.


  8. […] be ignorant of what happens at other, more popular comix blogs, but still, it bears linking: David Brothers on Newsarama, Alan Moore, Before Watchmen, et cetera. Read it, because he’s right. Trick your friends into looking at this:TwitterPrintEmailLike […]


  9. @david brothers: This is pretty much the articulation of how I feel about this mess. I’m not a big fan of Moore and think he’s wrong about a lot of shit. I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t use this as some justification for Before Watchmen.


  10. In listing people who’ve spoken out over more than a tweet or two, Abhay’s tumblr was pretty non-stop with stuff for a while, right down to setting up that separate site with quotes from the creators on it.


  11. Moves like going ahead with Before Watchmen just makes DC come off as greedy but also desperate. The irony ( there’s a lot of irony in comics business) is that the desperation stems from DCs’ greed that was conceived by business insecurity and creative arrogrance. Granted, just like Moore and Gibbons didn’t know how messed up theircontract would prove to be, DC didn’t know how big of shadow Watchmen would cast. Yet, they should have had a bit more foresight. Moore had certainly proved he was one of the top writer in comics. Making backhanded manuevers to snatch the rights from Moore and Gibbons (and Lloyd, and Bissette, etc.) wouldn’t be as artistically and business savvy as re-working the “one year later” deal and staying in Moores’ good graces. But, no. DC had the position of “we’ll find a new ni@@a next year”. The search seemingly still continues. Although, the case can be made that DCs’ learned just a little something from their mis dealings with Moore. Neil Gaimans’ say on how the Sandman characters will be used comes to mind. Morrisons’ revamp job starting Seven Soilders to his co writing on 52 to All Supe then Batman back to Supes again leading to a lot of his ( admittedly top selling) past works getting the deluxe and omnibus treatment ( the 1000 plus Invisibles omni, We3 and Flex Mentallo new hard covers, JLA deluxes). Geoff Johns is a bit of a different beast. He’s clearly Mr. DC, with his writing style being the defacto style for most of the New 52 books ( silver age affection plus grim and gritty violence). Irony being that his Justice League book might be the least violent of the new 52 books. Scott Snyder is that new ni@@a but, like many in past 10 to 20 post Image, I’m not a business man, I’m a business, man age of the hustler years, he has a niche. The horror writer working mostly superhero comics. And when not bringing the spooks to cape comics, he puts out a book on the most popular characters currently in pop culture, vampires. Of course, it can all fall down between DC and any of these folks. There are current yet more quiet examples of this. ( Gail Simone was writing 2 to 3 books for DC last year. Now she’s not even heard from at con panels. Mark Waid appears to have been pushed out after calling out Didio for his in house bashing of 52, the one event that many say either of the Big Two have gotten right. Where’s Wally West? Out of print along with many of Waids’ DC works. Waids’ fellow 52 co-writer, Greg Rucka, quietly went out the back door after stops and stalls on Batwoman, the disappearance of Renee Montoya, and being mis assigned on a world of New Krypton.) what the Big 2 fail realize is that you can only mistreat those that place the blocks that form the pyrimaids of your empire. Squeeze every last dime you want out of anyone you can get it from but eventually, things will dry up. They’ve all ready started. Why crush old fruits when your more than capable hands can be used to plant new seeds?


  12. “Before Watchmen has an economic motivation, not an artistic one.”

    Welcome to: every comic Marvel and DC produce.


  13. @Wackadoo: Gosh, do you mean to say that they aren’t charities?


  14. An excellent summary, David. One other item you might want to add to the chronology is DC’s decision back in August of 2000 to cancel the special 15th anniversary edition of Watchmen (and a line of action figures), after Alan Moore withdrew his support for the project (Dave Gibbons chose to do the same, out of solidarity with Moore). DC’s statement announcing the cancellation of the project:

    “DC initiated plans for a fifteenth anniversary celebration of Watchmen in collaboration with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Subsequently, they’ve informed us that they’d prefer not to participate and it wouldn’t be a party without them. Therefore, DC will not proceed with its previously announced plans for a Watchmen hardcover or Watchmen action figures.”

    Things have certainly changed since then! (“It wouldn’t be a party without them”, indeed.)

    If you’re keeping track of posts explicitly against this project, I also wrote a couple of posts back on February 1st (when the prequels were officially announced):

    http://comicscommentary.blogspot.com/2012/02/watchmen-prequels-irrelevant-and.html

    http://comicscommentary.blogspot.com/2012/02/j-michael-straczynski-on-alan-moore-and.html


  15. It’s more than a little sad that this is a controversy, quoted or unquoted, at all. It really shouldn’t be one amongst fans. The situation’s cut and dry, yet there they are, arguing over the merits of Before Watchmen. Sometimes even using DC’s strawmen. Would be mind-boggling if it didn’t happen so often.


  16. Nicely done. Of the handful of comics blogs I really enjoy reading, I think this is the one that matters most to me, because this is the one where shit gets said, and said well.

    I don’t know what to think about so many creators I admire being tied up in this mess, either.

    You and many people are noting that you aren’t even particular fans of Moore’s (recent?) work and public persona, which is a fine caveat against accusations of “oh, you’re just a grumpy Moore fanboy,” or whatever. Which is good, because this isn’t about being a fan of anything except fairness. It doesn’t matter that Moore is an important creator, in the running for greatest of all time, and it doesn’t matter that you, me or that chick over there think his work in recent years has been [negative adjective], especially [particular book(s)].

    To anyone who gets caught up in who Alan Moore is, I say this: He could be the worst creator working today. Go ahead, think of your least-favorite creator, that hack who ruins all your favorite characters. You know the one. That guy. That guy does not deserve to be treated like this, and if that guy was being screwed over something with less merit than Watchmen, this would still be wrong. (Unless it was JMS, of course. That guy seems to be a genuine bag of shit.)


  17. I applaud you, sir. This is all that really needs to be said on the matter as far as “controversy” is involved. It blows my mind that people are actually trying to defend this move and I say this as someone that doesn’t even care for Watchmen (though I acknowledge its importance). If DC really wanted my money, they’d put these creators on things that weren’t directly flipping off a single old man.


  18. Really great article! Despite the excellent creative teams involved Im not buying any of the Before Watchman books. Its really sad tha DC is choosing to follow their legal rights vs the wishes of a creative team that has made them millions.


  19. Speaking only for myself and the work I’ve helped coordinate on CBR, I’ll admit that I’ve been having a tough time finding the best balance between acknowledging the very necessary discussion surrounding creator’s rights as it applies to Moore and this line of books and doing out general job of informing the readers on the general 5 W questions about the work coming out.

    I would say that to your question about whether there’s been anything on the main CBR page specifically about Alan and his feelings that on the day the news broke, I woke up at 5 AM to call Moore for comment, and when I spoke to him, he told me that he said his piece in the NY Times, so I quoted all of his displeasure in our story about the new books when that news was in its “breaking” phase. Beyond that, I’m proud to point out that of all the initial wave of interviews with the people involved with the Before Watchmen books, my JMS interview was, I think, the only one to engage Moore’s view and his rights in a meaningful way as the quotes from JMS there (and later on his Facebook page) formed the brunt of what bloggers and commentators drew from in their initial (and in many cases continued) pieces on the subject. Surely, a part of this is that JMS generally is the kind of person who opts to be outspoken with this in a way that some others aren’t, but I think the CBR coverage reflects the fact that we’ve kept the ethical dimension of this project in mind in a way that mainstream media outlets like EW or Wired or whoever haven’t. (Let’s face it, one of the obvious reasons DC choses to break a lot of this coverage on sites like those beyond the belief that they reach more of the “real public” is that their engagement with the thornier issues surrounding Before Watchmen are quotes from guys like Azz and Darwyn Cooke saying, “You may not like this now, but boy will you when it comes out!”).

    Additionally, we commissioned a piece by Brett White about the debate over whether DC should have done this right after the story was announced:

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=36751

    Now of course, Brett came down more on the side of checking out the books than anything else, but as News Editor, I don’t tell people writing commentary what to write, I just try to give them some background to the topics at hand when I commission them to write a piece, and even that is pretty rare. As someone who’s been reading comics news sites for a long time, I find it interesting that while ten or so years ago CBR was best known for its columns and commentary while Newsarama was best known for its reporting, I think that paradigm has flipped some in terms of what’s on the front page. For our part, that has a lot to do with the fact that my specific interest lies in writing news copy and not criticism/commentary. We’ve been trying of late to find more strong, smart voices to grace the front page in terms of Editorials and the like, but we’ve admittedly had a hard time finding good people who don’t already have happy homes writing that kind of stuff on their own blogs. (I should note here too that I think the ‘Rama crew still do a very fine job informing people still, including Vaneta and Lucas whose work I read every day)

    And as one last point on what’s become another rambling “I respectfully think I don’t suck at my job” post here on 4th Letter (sorry, David), while we don’t ever tell the Robot 6 crew what to write about, we obviously coordinate with them in terms of what they link to from around the web and their original commentary, and while we don’t link to every post of theirs, we’ve made a point to draw attention to pieces like Mautners with solo links on the CBR homepage.

    But that’s aside from the main point. I think in general, one of the biggest challenges to matching the discussion that’s happened within the “Comics Commentariat” about Moore’s rights both contractual and ethical is that he has chosen to engage not at all with us while DC, obviously, is pushing out info both promotional and otherwise as hard as they can. We’d LOVE to do a long piece with Alan Moore about all of this, but for some reason, he’s opted to take his say to the mainstream press and the odd corners of the internet where he feels more welcome, and we’re left letting Robot 6 link-blog to his thoughts.

    I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who feel like when a site like CBR (or Newsarama or CA or iFanboy or whoever) interviews a creator on these Before Watchmen books, we should just take Moore’s opinions in hand like some kind of bludgeon and hack away at these creators saying, “How DARE you do this to Alan Moore?” but that seems like a poor approach to me for a number of reasons. For one, as a reporter who tries to objectively report the facts first and foremost, I hope to not let my own views color my line of questioning in a way that gets away from those facts. And the facts here are that everything else aside, the people making these books didn’t negotiate the original Watchmen contract, and they didn’t greenlight the new books. There’s DEFINITELY some engagement to be made on why they decided to take on this work considering all the factors surrounding the original work both contractually and creatively. This weekend at C2E2, I spoke to two Before Watchmen creators while shooting some video content (Azz and Bermejo), and the question I went forward with was “What was your reaction when asked to take this on and why did you eventually say yes?” In the end, I’m not sure I was strong enough in how I phrased that or that I shouldn’t have invoked Moore’s opinions directly. It’s something I’m still struggling with as a reader who empathizes with him above all in this and who has zero interest in reading these books for that alone.

    But ultimately, I’m not sure moralizing in news content gives my readership anything worthwhile either in terms of what they want or what they need from a news site. And in the end, my primary considerations on CBR are for my readers. I don’t doubt there are folks out there who say “If you’re personally turned off of this work because of DC’s treatment of Moore, isn’t it wrong of you to cover this at all?” but that’s not how I view the function of my job or CBR’s place in the industry. Before Watchmen is a project that’s happening, and it’s a project that a lot of retailers and comic readers are going to be heavily invested in one way or the other, and that makes it newsworthy in terms of what our mandate is.

    I do think A LOT about how best to cover all this and how to make Moore’s opinion as important a piece of the news as it truly is even as he politely declines to speak with me or my staff about it. Even if we have missed opportunities in the past to do that to the best of our ability, I hope that whatever future coverage we have on this topic does it well, and I’m doing my best to reflect all that honestly across the News functions of CBR from interviews to coordination with our blogs and eventually down to the reviews our team will eventually write about them (though I don’t ever really engage with those guys as an editor either).

    Okay, I’ll stop now. Thanks for some food for thought, David.


  20. Wow. Instead of Alan Moore’s tears, clearly Watchmen fans should be using their own tears to sustain themselves over this issue. I have a question for everyone who’s upset over new Watchmen material: what’s your favourite comic film? C’mon, I know you have one. Dark Knight? Superman 2? First Class? Or we could go with American Splendor or Ghost World. You folks must have one. Of course you shouldn’t because faithful adaptation or not, it’s someone else’s interpretation of the material. Go ahead and ask Bill Finger how he feels about modern Batman stories. I’m sure he hasn’t agreed with every tale. I’d bet Stan Lee has disagreed with certain Spider-man stories and he’s still known as King Marvel. I would really like to know when Watchmen became the bible of the comic industry. It’s neither infallible nor is it holy parchment. When did the comic media decide this book was above criticism? When did Moore become King James, an analogy I’m certain would turn his stomach. As the creator, he has every right to feel as he does and you may certainly have empathy for him. Decrying new work based on the ground he tread upon however is crass and speaks to a larger issue within the comics industry: elitism. Sites like your beloved Comics Alliance are leading the charge, crying for creators’ rights when no one else is including the creators, claiming racist overtones when none exist and generally acting as the authority on what comic fans like and dislike. This crass hipster subjugation over what’s cool, what’s right and what’s wrong has created a divide where if I don’t agree with you, I’m wrong, you’re right and that’s that. Watchmen, like all forms of literature, is not above parody, adaptation or further analysis. Placing it on a high pedestal gives an added reverence to the material it doesn’t deserve. No art form should obtain sainthood, and yet this is what you suggest. Forget what DC and the creators say about Before Watchmen: your opinion is already written therefore any argument towards pro falls short. Every blog, story and comment you make is blatantly biased nullifying your opinion.
    Let’s touch on creators rights here since this is the crux of your argument. I agree Moore was screwed by DC. It’s hard not to. So was Finger. So were Seigel and Schuster. Marvel screwed Kirby. Kirkman may very well be screwing Tony Moore as we speak. What you’re suggesting is that we stop this from happening ever again and make Before Watchmen the cornerstone of this movement. You’re better off trying to stop a hurricane with a ceiling fan or a flood with several sponges. This is the industry. Claiming this argument is invalid is egregious at best. You don’t get to take it off the table because without it the table has no legs. How many great characters did we get because Stan Lee “stole” the idea? Can the argument not be made that the ends justify the means, regardless of circumstance? Moore is no fool. He took the job knowing it could be successful and negate him ownership. It didn’t work out. He played blackjack and lost. Is he allowed to complain that the cards didn’t stack right? Of course. YOU are not. You are not his champion. Certainly he doesn’t need it. Alan Moore is well known and respected. He’s also made a lot of money off of DC, despite not accepting their payouts any longer. He needs no movement. Only liberal bloggers like you feel the need to stand up for his rights. Poor Alan Moore – the crazy old wizard with no computer and no cellphone. He still makes more money than you do every year. 
    This all comes down to money and none of you will admit it. If Moore took money from DC for Watchmen, there’d be no issue. Why would there be? He’s getting paid! That’s all that matters! No, because Moore refuses payment it makes your little brains convince themselves this is about creator’s rights. It’s not. Moore gambled with imaginary friends, played with a business, lost/got screwed and said he didn’t want to play anymore. The grand old wizard now wants his imaginary toys back but it’s too late; the business has made them generals in his army. He lost his playthings. I’d be pissed too…but that’s the way it is. He could have lost a lot more.
    Championing for creative rights here smacks of desperation from you and other opponents of the new material. Would you feel as strongly about Before Watchmen books if Moore himself was doing them? Or if they were never popular in the first place? You see, a lot of factors get us to this point in space time and with a few changes, this whole issue becomes nothing more than a blip in a bucket. Stop hiding behind creators rights when it isn’t the issue. Stop turning this whole event into just about corporate cash grabbing. Admit you just think it’s a bad idea. You’re allowed to not overly deconstruct everything. Sadly in this case, you’re only furthering the divide between regular comic fans such as myself and pretentious jerks like you, trying to make a name for themselves by maligning work still being created by respected writers and artists trying to feed their families and keep their mortgage payments solid. You’re a real hero – helping out Alan Moore like that. I’m sure he appreciates it. 


  21. @Adam Tupper: ‘Would you feel as strongly about Before Watchmen books if Moore himself was doing them?’

    No, but then that’s the point, isn’t it?

    ‘Stop turning this whole event into just about corporate cash grabbing. Admit you just think it’s a bad idea.’

    It’s a bad idea. And it is, in fact, a corporate cash grab, in that a corporation is attempting to grab some cash by exploiting a product that they have claim over. That’s not an issue. What IS an issue is how said claim is built on a wobbly pile of brittle sticks and fairy dust.

    ‘Sadly in this case, you’re only furthering the divide between regular comic fans such as myself and pretentious jerks like you, trying to make a name for themselves by maligning work still being created by respected writers and artists trying to feed their families and keep their mortgage payments solid.’

    Speaking as a hack trying to feed his family and keep his payments solid, Mr. Brothers doesn’t strike me so much as pretentious as he does frustrated and concerned. He’s not furthering a divide…if anything, he’s closing said gap by shoveling as much information as he can at ‘regular comics fans’ and hoping that they might start to think about what hidden costs their-our-fandom comes with.


  22. This probably the best thing on the internet about ‘Before Watchmen’. It’s concise, very clear and easy to understand. If someone doesn’t agree with this then there probably isn’t much point talking to them as they clearly won’t listen.


  23. This post is perfect. The only thing I might add to the timeline is that some point around the time the movie came out, DC offered all the rights back to Alan Moore, on the condition that he allowed them to do spin-offs/prequels/sequels. So after a film he wouldn’t have allowed on his own, they offered the rights back stripped of the ability to veto auxiliary material. As far as I’m concerned, that’s like totalling someone else’s car and then telling them you’ll give them back the wreckage if they agree to let you strip it for parts and scrap and if they say no, they get nothing back at all.


  24. I like this article. I appreciate the way you broke down the ‘Facts’ and ‘Not The Issue’, because the conversation get’s off track so often.

    I feel way more like the ‘fatalist’ you described. ‘Before Watchmen’ is coming out, I can’t stop it, I don’t really want to talk about it. But to continue your cancer analogy, I don’t feel any need to talk about it because it’s already happened and has been happening for decades. I don’t know why this seemed new to people but Watchmen already is a martyr, died for its cause and the movie was the funeral. “It’s gone to a better place,” they told us. “Licensing.” Once they made a movie the genie was completely out of the bottle, so to say.

    At least Alan Moore was vocal about this for the last 20 years, and hopefully we can learn from it the same way we have from Kirby and Siegle and Shuster. Comic creators know more now than they ever did about their rights and they have more options than they ever did in publishing. With the internet that information can be shared easier. Too bad Image didn’t exist in 1985.

    I really think people should take it easy on the creators of the prequels, however. It really is just a job for most of them, and probably a good paying one. Unfortunately it really is not different than working on a Superman or Fantastic Four comic.


  25. :negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman::negativeman:


  26. so how long until the book Strawmen comes out? I would love a in depth comic on Alan’s issue written and drawn similar to watchmen(not a direct spoof or recreation just in alan moore writing).


  27. Bet DC really, really wish they’d let Moore use the Charlton characters.Full ownership = no problem.

    My take on this is that it’s a gut reaction from most fans. They’re offended that Alan Moore didn’t like the films of his comics that they like. They’re offended that he doesn’t dig the comics industry. And they’re offended that their understanding of the comics industry, which these days exists just to serve them, is being challenged.


  28. I basically disagree with one word of this… but it’s an important word. That’s “cheated”.

    A publisher maintaining publishing rights while a work remains in-print was both a common structure in non-comics publishing of the day, and a reasonable one – as long as they are selling a work, they could maintain the costs of keeping it in print, invest in print runs to have a couple years worth of books on hand without fear that they would lose the right to sell them at any given moment. This encouraged publishers to do things that would end up generating royalties for the writers. Few are the writers who would complain that a work that they expected to go out of print in a year was instead kept in print and generating significant royalties still many years later. Most would consider that an achievement.

    It may not be what either DC or Moore expected, given where the publication of collections was at the time. And had there been some history of such in comics, there might have been a second sunset to the clause – that even if the book remained in print, the rights would revert after 10 years or so. But “cheated” makes it sound like DC was thinking “we expect this to be selling two decades later, so we’ll slip this in and hope it doesn’t get noticed”, when it would be unreasonable (albeit prophetically so) for them to have thought that. (However, for the sake of any aspiring book creators in the audience, let me note that an “as long as it’s in print” clause should be avoided today, or at least modified heavily. The advent of print-on-demand means that a publisher can technically keep a work “in print” with no inventory, no storage cost, and thus there is no reason to allow the book to go “out of print” even if they’re doing nothing to support it and generating no royalties for the creator. But that’s just a general warning and in no way applies to Watchmen, which has been kept “in print” in the sense that the term had when the contract was written.)

    Having said that, the Internet seems filled with people who feel that Moore has no right to a strongly-voiced opinion on the matter… and these are all people who themselves have a strongly-voiced opinion on the matter. Somehow the writer who crafted the work in question has less right than they to have a belief about whether hanging additional stories on this classic work is a Good Idea, whether it be in a creative, ethical, or business sense. Moore has a right and basis for feeling disappointed, angry, and scornful, and is under no obligation to hold his tongue on such a topic. What he has to say should be given serious consideration.


  29. […] am not the most articulate person, especially when I am heavily invested, and thus you should turn to David Brothers over at 4thletter to get your explanation. Brothers sums up the controversy (including the weird/dismissive things JMS said to justify […]


  30. I don’t think I’ve come out with my broadside against BEFORE WATCHMEN, but I’ve been referring to it as fanfic since it was announced, and mocking those who say Alan Moore would have done the same thing (http://www.comicsbeat.com/2012/03/14/new-alan-moore-barbaric-yawp-two-wrongs-dont-make-a-right/) but I guess I need to spell out my feelings better.


  31. @Nat Gertler: It’s not so much that we believe DC was always plotting to keep Watchmen in print even before it was published (of course they didn’t). It’s that, contrary to popular belief, the essence of a contract is more than the piece of paper it’s written on. A contract is a meeting of the minds, and when both of the minds meet to say “in this current market reality where comics never stay in print, creators get rights to book after it goes out of print,” it is in fact a violation of that meeting of the minds to say later “oh so we just won’t let it go out of print.”

    It is an actionable cause to litigate a conditional contract if the condition is actively being prevented from occurring. And hell, Gaiman won his suit against McFarlane for similar reasons– i.e., he and McFarlane agreed on one set of terms (that work-for-hire is BS and so Gaiman would retain the rights to characters he created) only for McFarlane to weasel around and argue that Gaiman’s characters were to generic to be copyrightable. That failed for old Todd.

    Furthermore, non-comics publishers for the most part only have a license to publish, where the writer retains full copyright and derivative rights (i.e. movies etc.) This isn’t a squabble over a mere publishing deal, this is over who is the actual legal owner of Watchmen. You know the expression “Possession is 9/10ths of the law”? DC has the legally more favorable position (but if Moore had consulted a lawyer 20 years ago, there may have been a different story). As it is, he won’t be able to pull a Siegel to try to get the rights back, because as far as the law is concerned, the rights were never his


  32. All these people crying about artistic integrity and creator rights and Moore got cheated and wahwahwah are going to end up buying all the issues anyway.

    Because they’ll probably be really good.


  33. @Wackadoo: Speak for yourself. I have absolutely no desire to read them, just like I had no desire to see the movie– which I still haven’t.


  34. If you sign a contract and later decide you don’t like the terms of the contract it doesn’t mean you were ‘wronged’ or ‘cheated’ it just means you’re a doofus.


  35. @Kiel Phegley: “We’d LOVE to do a long piece with Alan Moore about all of this, but for some reason, he’s opted to take his say to the mainstream press and the odd corners of the internet where he feels more welcome.”

    I’m not sure why this would be surprising. The site you’re writing and editing for is acting as one of DC’s major promotional outlets on the Internet. You publish DOZENS of completely unreflected promotional items provided by DC every day, on BEFORE WATCHMEN and on other books.

    You have the outlet to cover this — every aspect of this — extensively and in any way you choose. And in all the ways that count, you’re not covering it. The idea that you’d need exclusive access to Alan Moore to formulate some sort of response to these ethical issues is ridiculous and sad.

    “I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who feel like when a site like CBR interviews a creator on these Before Watchmen books, we should just take Moore’s opinions in hand like some kind of bludgeon and hack away at these creators saying, ‘How DARE you do this to Alan Moore?’ but that seems like a poor approach to me for a number of reasons.”

    Yeah, and we all know ‘bludgeon them with accusations’ and ‘don’t address the issue’ are the only options here.

    “For one, as a reporter who tries to objectively report the facts first and foremost, I hope to not let my own views color my line of questioning in a way that gets away from those facts. And the facts here are that everything else aside, the people making these books didn’t negotiate the original Watchmen contract, and they didn’t greenlight the new books.”

    No, that’s not ‘the facts.’

    ‘The facts’ is, YOU are making this point on behalf of the people making these books, Mister Professional and Objective News Editor. And that says more about your coverage than anything else you’ve written.


  36. Drop the mike David you just wrote the perfect piece on the subject.


  37. Brothers, stop working for Comics “DC must diiiie!” Alliance and these posts will be even better to read.


  38. @awesomedude: Stop talking. Right now. Not only are you being willfully obtuse about the contractual history between DC and Moore, you also don’t seem to know how contracts actually work.

    Now, I’m two weeks away from a law degree and I’ve already been hired to handle government contracts for a multinational corporation. Read my post at 7:50, with the thought in mind that everything there is established legal principle and precedent.


  39. This is a great summary of the ugly affair. I sure hope DC loses their spangled tights on this travesty. I suspect their Watchmen enterprise will fail not because of the obvious creators rights issues, but because they will inevitably be deeply uninspired and boring comics. Thanks much for your coverage of this… please keep up the good work.


  40. @Alexa D.: Moore has stated that he could sue for the rights if he wanted to, but that would force him to remain silent on the issue while it was in court for years, and he would prefer to be able to speak up about it whenever he wants.

    @Wackadoo: Well, that’s kind of what pieces like this are hoping to do: to get people to think twice about just “buying all the issues anyway”. While comics fans do often commit the dumb act of buying comics they know they won’t like to make sure they don’t miss part of the story or have any holes in their collections, hopefully people like David can convince them to grow up and act like adults, realizing that maybe they can change the industry for the better if they vote with their wallets. If there was ever a comic that could use a boycott, this is it.


  41. @Steven Stwalley: They will come out, be read, probably be just ok, and then be promptly forgotten. DC will try to push them by say, labeling Watchmen as v1 and the rest as v2, v3, etc, but they will be forgotten. I don’t think they will harm or reduce the appeal of the actual book.

    Actually this whole situation reminds me of something Moore said early on, about how there’s no sequel to Moby-Dick… There totally is! It’s called The Wind Whales of Ishmael and it’s by Philip Jose Farmer. It’s about how Ishmael is transported to the distant future by mystical carvings on Queequeg’s coffin. It’s pretty bad, actually! The fact that Moore either forgot about it or never heard of it despite being into the 70s fantasy scene speaks volumes.

    @John Space: Oh, please. Don’t you dare try to shame Brothers for even having a modicum of engagement with mainstream comics. Have you actually read his pieces on there? They are exceptional and often champion great causes. Look, I know your solution to the problems in the comics industry is a scorched earth approach where anyone who dares to even think about mainstream comics are shunned, but just reinforces artificial divides. Keep it to yourself.


  42. “Now, I’m two weeks away from a law degree”

    They didn’t teach you about integration clauses, counselor? You’re relying on parol evidence.


  43. @Marc-Oliver Frisch: I don’t know if there’s much to say here except that I disagree completely with your assessment of my site, our work in general and our work on this topic. I’ll try anyway.

    To be more specific:

    I don’t write commentary. I report news. In my post above, I note how I’ve acknowledged and discussed Moore’s status and his opinions prominently in my work on this topic. As for whether I’d “formulate some sort of response to these ethical issues” I’m not sure what kind of response you’d like. We’ve published the facts of the matter including Moore and DC’s take on this. We’ve linked to every interview he’s done about this with commentary via Robot 6 (they ARE a part of CBR, you know) and we’ve had opinion pieces written across the breadth of the site. I’m not beholden to personally write opinion pieces, am I?

    As for me making any kind argument on behalf of people who work for DC in any capacity, I don’t recall ever doing that. If you could point to something I’ve written where you think I’m expressly making a case on DC’s behalf, please send me the link, and I’d be happy to take a look and make anything more clear.

    I admitted above that finding the right balance while writing about this has been tough for me, but I don’t think any of my work warrants the kind of tone or tact you’re taking in these comments let alone your accusations. David called for a discussion worthy of adults here, and I’m trying to participate honestly, civilly and to the best of my ability.


  44. Let me note that it was not unknown for comics to stay in print at the time Watchmen was signed; it was certainly the exception, but if I recall correctly the first volume of the Donning/Starblaze ElfQuest reprints, starting in 1981, would have returned to press multiple times before the Watchmen contract signed in… was it ’85? Ditto for the Aardvark-Vanaheim Swords Of Cerebus volume 1.

    DC’s keeping Watchmen in print does not seem to have been with the goal of “cheating” to hold onto the rights, but to fulfill the main goal of the contract – the publishing of Watchmen in ways that were profitable to all parties. If I understand correctly (with my not-a-lawyer flag flying), they could be seen as being in violation if they did not strive to be profitably publishing the work.

    None of that means that there wasn’t a failed “meeting of the minds”, of course. DC may well have felt that maintaining in-print status, while unlikely, was possible and intentionally included that possibility, while Moore did not recognize the possibility. However, a failed meeting of the minds (even if it does make a contract dissolvable) does not mean someone is cheating; DC looks like they are working within what they might reasonably have understood the agreement to be. And in these matters, they seem to be working in cooperation with Gibbons, who also has a right to have his own view on this matter (so much of the discussion seems to leave him out.)


  45. this is my favorite piece on BW…i wont be buying it even though i like most of the creators. the creators rights issue was the first brick, but when i realized that it just seems like a creative dead end, that was it.

    this is one of those things that just seems sad and desperate, and the opposite of the interesting new stuff i wish i was seeing from DC and the folks involved.


  46. @Nat Gertler: This is the real question though. Moore has said publicly, even back to the ’80s that DC sold he and Gibbons on this deal based on the idea that they WOULD get the rights back . If someone at DC be it Girodano or Kahn or whoever actually said to them, “Don’t worry, you will get the rights back” and then refused to let them lapse to make more money off the trades, then it IS the publisher cheating the creator in undeniable terms.


  47. David Brothers is… ALL 13 ASSASSINS


  48. Definitely agree with what you’ve articulated here so succinctly and smartly. Before you drop the mic, I’d suggest, IMHO, maybe also considering one more little distinction that I see some people getting hung up on. It’s the difference between legality and morality. In a legal sense, technically speaking, DC didn’t actually do a thing wrong with their treatment of Moore (which is a travesty in itseld). They found loopholes, they ducked and weaved, and followed the letter of the contract, and not the spirit with which it was intended, and likely understood by the creators. In doing so, they made an ethically and morally reprehensible decision and furthered an unfortunate precedent in the medium.


  49. I have no source other than… I think it was David Aja on Twitter, but apparently Dark Knight Returns has gone out of print three times since 1986? If that’s true, it makes the “sorry guys, we just can’t print enough of these things!” theory seem a little less likely.


  50. I’m at work, but let me try to hit as many of these as possible that haven’t already been addressed in some way.

    @James W: TOTAL MASSACRE

    @Adam Tupper: You’re adorable, and I hope that your 900 word comment one day finds a home on a post that’s relevant to what you’re talking about. I do like “crass hipster subjugation,” though, and I think you’ll find that I’m not much of a liberal. Keep on shrugging, Atlas, or whatever. One day you’ll make sense.

    @Ben Dale: I’m really, really conflicted on the creators. I can’t hate them for doing their job and paying their family, but man I wish they had another route. DC coulda poured all this money into doing a new creator-owned line with these guys, or something. But I think when they take the JMS route of actively encouraging people getting screwed over, it’s more than fine to write them off. But I mean Cooke and Azz alone have written some of my most favorite comics, so it’s a bummer regardless.

    @John Space: Sure, bro, I’ll get right on that.

    @Wackadoo: Nope. I’ve not bought plenty of things that were really good over ideological reasons, or out of just plain laziness. I’m not reading or buying these.

    @The Beat: My issue is with the lack of broadsides, essentially. Driveby commentary is fine, but doesn’t hold the same weight as old fashioned fire and brimstone when every week sees some new Before Watchmen art. We’re all smart people, and as near as I can tell, a lot of us have similar feelings on Before Watchmen, but we’ve never put those feelings down in one place.

    @qwerty: this is the only comment I 100% agree with

    @Justin: This is true, and something I totally glossed over. Thanks for pointing that out. I just sort of assume people know the difference, but it never hurts to make it plain.

    @Kiel Phegley: I have a lot of comments, and I think we disagree in a pretty fundamental way. I’m at work though, so let me try to hit the high points real quick:

    (Let’s face it, one of the obvious reasons DC choses to break a lot of this coverage on sites like those beyond the belief that they reach more of the “real public” is that their engagement with the thornier issues surrounding Before Watchmen are quotes from guys like Azz and Darwyn Cooke saying, “You may not like this now, but boy will you when it comes out!”).

    Yeah, this is true. And a little manipulative, I think, but also just basic marketing. It sucks, but like… that’s on DC and USA Today or whoever it is that’s Chief Mainstream Media Press Release Regurgitator these days.

    For our part, that has a lot to do with the fact that my specific interest lies in writing news copy and not criticism/commentary.

    But these are not two different things. News is very often criticism and commentary. The reverse isn’t necessarily true (I spent a couple weeks ODing on Frank Miller comics last year for critical purposes, and that ain’t news so much as obsession), but news definitely, definitely has a critical component. Sometimes it’s through immediate relevancy, like when Politician A campaigns against gay marriage and cites “sanctity of marriage,” but Politician A also cheats on his or her spouse. Sometimes it’s through building a narrative. Politician B was a virulent racist as a child, but… I dunno, got a black friend and now thirty years later he’s not a dick any more and would like your votes.

    All of that is criticism and commentary. Objectivity has its place, but objectivity is also very often used as a smokescreen to avoid taking a stance. “we don’t want to editorialize” is such a fake idea to me, because you’re making a decision just by reporting on this news, but not that news, especially when they’re relevant.

    So I think that reporting on the creators’ rights issues, especially in a year where creator-owned has evolved into a (meaningless to the consumer) marketing slogan and we’re still seeing creators’ rights issues is responsible journalism. This stuff counts just as much as some Before Watchmen creator talking about their work, if not more so. This is a convo we need to be having, in-depth and over time.

    I think in general, one of the biggest challenges to matching the discussion that’s happened within the “Comics Commentariat” about Moore’s rights both contractual and ethical is that he has chosen to engage not at all with us while DC, obviously, is pushing out info both promotional and otherwise as hard as they can. We’d LOVE to do a long piece with Alan Moore about all of this, but for some reason, he’s opted to take his say to the mainstream press and the odd corners of the internet where he feels more welcome, and we’re left letting Robot 6 link-blog to his thoughts.

    This is a cop-out. You don’t need to speak to Alan Moore to talk about this. Alan Moore is on record, and has been on record for basically twenty years. He’s talked extensively about this, and the other facts are either on record or the kind of common knowledge that it should be pretty easy to verify. (I’m thinking specifically of Levitz blocking Watchmen 2 for years here, which I haven’t heard confirmed, but is often repeated as if it were true by non-stupid people.) I mean, the “Green Lantern sucks, who cares, I don’t read those crappy comics by crappy people” stuff is new (and annoying), but the facts have always been there.

    Why do you need to talk directly to Moore to talk creators’ rights? More than that, why are you “left letting Robot 6 link-blog to his thoughts?” Moore’s interviews should be a jumping off point for your own thoughts. “I read this Alan Moore interview, and here’s what it made me think of, as well as some context from back in the day, and a quick history lesson.” That’s easy, and we all do that all the time. Well not all of us (sorry, hyperbole), but you know what I mean. “Joe Quesada said this–what’s this mean? Here’s some ideas…”

    A long interview would be nice. But that’s beside the point and redundant in 2012. We know what Moore’s going to say. So now, my question is this: what do YOU have to say? Where do you stand? How do you feel? It’s not really a binary situation, I don’t think. There’s plenty of grey. Let’s talk that out. Let’s do our job as comics press, for whatever that’s worth, in addition to linkblogging and letting Didio or Buckley tell lies in public with no retort.

    I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who feel like when a site like CBR (or Newsarama or CA or iFanboy or whoever) interviews a creator on these Before Watchmen books, we should just take Moore’s opinions in hand like some kind of bludgeon and hack away at these creators saying, “How DARE you do this to Alan Moore?” but that seems like a poor approach to me for a number of reasons.

    Fake idea. Strawman. I refuse your premise. Marc-Oliver Frisch is the only guy I’ve seen who wants a bludgeoning (sorry if I’m misrepresenting, Marc-Oliver, but that’s the feeling I got on Twitter yesterday), and even he grants that there’s a world of variety between softballs & kisses and a vicious bludgeoning with a talking Alan Moore puppet.

    You can talk about the ethics and controversy without being ugly and confrontational. “Brian, there’s been considerable pushback on Before Watchmen from the creative community for (reasons). How do you feel about that pushback? Do you think that Moore got a raw deal, or is he overreacting?” That’s just off the top of my head (which is why it’s a bit crap). This stuff IS possible, and I think it would greatly benefit the industry and our dialogue if not every single interview we do around or about a controversial subject dodged it like Neo in the Matrix.

    But ultimately, I’m not sure moralizing in news content gives my readership anything worthwhile either in terms of what they want or what they need from a news site. And in the end, my primary considerations on CBR are for my readers.

    I think we’ve had this discussion before, maybe. I can’t find it on 4l!, so maybe it was on The Beat or somewhere, but I think I hit CBR for not going after Quesada when he said something fishy in an interview? Do you remember that? This was probably a couple years ago. My memory’s hazy, but I’m pretty sure we had this exchange.

    Oh, found it! Robot6. And it was about Didio.

    Anyway, you used a similar rationale then. You said that you could either waste time trying to get Didio to say what you wanted or you could spend your thirty minutes asking questions that would get answers.

    And again, this is a false dichotomy. You can get whoever on record with a “No comment” or “I’d rather not talk about that” and then move on to whatever he wants to talk about. But by entering interviews in that mindset, you’re ceding control to the interviewee, instead of controlling the interview yourself. You’re letting them decide what to talk about, rather than guiding the conversation. You’re self-censoring because you don’t think you’ll get a real answer, but I don’t think you realize how valuable a public dodge can be when it comes to discussing an issue.

    Dan Didio doesn’t want to discuss something. Why? What’s wrong with his arguments? What’s right with them? Where is he coming from with this?

    That’s what I’m frustrated with in the comics press. The goal is pimping someone else’s work, rather than reportage or commentary. “Before Watchmen exists!” isn’t news. It’s a press release. It’s promo. Which is fine–we’re all writing about entertainment, and “You should buy this” is still basically the highest praise I can give a comic. But don’t pretend like that’s objective news when it’s delivered directly from a company with a vested interest in selling books.

    All I’m asking is that you ask a second question. If someone says something janky, or if there’s a huge, looming issue with the project, ask about it, and then follow-up on their answer. “So JMS, you say there’s no difference between League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Before Watchmen, even though…?” Or not even as combative as that. “Can you expand on that point? This is a very thorny issue, and I’d like to make sure our readers know where you’re coming from.

    I think that’s what your readers deserve, not nearly unfiltered pimpery or Newsarama’s history of sickening shillery and willingness to let DC use them as another PR organ. Reporting and staying positive is fine, but that in no way means that you don’t need to ask that second question.

    You, especially, are in a singular place in this conversation. I’m one dude with a blog that gets modest hits when I’m not writing about rap music and no access to the Big Two. You’re a news editor who knows all of these people. I can’t get David Hyde or Arune Singh to get somebody to talk to me about this stuff. You can. You have the ability, but you’re not willing because you think it’ll waste time and harm your readers, and that really and truly bothers me. if Jonah really is behind you like you say he is, and I believe he is, take that chance! The worst you’re looking at is an awkward conversation.


  51. “let me try and hit the high points real quick”

    *posts two thousand words*

    ugh

    :negativeman:


  52. @Abhay: Industry standards at the time the contract was signed is typically considered beyond parol evidence, and integration clauses won’t absolve anyone of being presumed to . I’m not saying it’s an open-and-shut case in favor of Moore (and it’s all academic now, since most certainly the statute of limitations has lapsed), and without the exact language of the contract in front of me, it’s impossible to say for sure.

    But if a partner at a law firm put Moore’s contract in front of me and explained the situation, I would expect to research all manner of possible theories from unjust enrichment to unconscionability to (as I said) intentional non-performance of a condition precedent, and possibly even challenge the work-for-hire clause itself. Sure, it may sound crazy, but that’s what lawyers are supposed to do– go completely to bat for your client and leave no stone unturned.


  53. @Kiel Phegley: you have the journalistic credibility of a mic stand, go have your crisis about being a guy who publishes press releases and calls himself a journalist on the gigantic website you write for.


  54. @Nat Gertler: I’ve seen that argument before about Cerebus being a clear pre-Watchmen example of a trade staying in print (dunno about Elfquest, but I’ll take your word for it), and I’ve always wondered — are those necessarily relevant examples? As I understand it, Dave Sim was kind of a pioneer in publishing those Cerebus “phonebooks” (again, can’t speak for Elfquest) and working in spheres outside of DC’s abilities/interests/radar, so to me that example seems closer to “exception that proves the rule” territory.

    I imagine — if you’re dealing with a big company in 1985 with no aggressive trade paperback program or much of a precedent except for a few indie folks — it’d be hard to predict the future in that situation.


  55. Most of the facts listed above are accurate (with one exception that may or may not matter to anyone), but they are not the *only* facts.

    – re: #8 – Moore refused money from DC for the Watchmen movie and its sequelae (i.e. the ancillary material like toys). He has not, to my knowledge, refused royalties for continued publication of the book itself, and as far as I know continues to this day to receive those royalties.

    – DC’s work-for-hire contracts contain a creator participation clause, which is why there’s even an issue regarding Moore or Gibbons getting money from the movie. The Watchmen contract was essentially a WFH contract with a reversion clause. As such, there is a significant difference (at least from a $ POV) between this and the Kirby situation.

    – Moore and Gibbons were paid, in their own words, “a substantial sum of money” for signing publication rights away to DC. (Source is Comic Jornal July 1987). “Substantial” is of course in the eye of the beholder – maybe it doesn’t seem so “substantial” in light of Watchmen’s success – but this isn’t the same as DC taking Superman from two broke kids for peanuts.

    – The Watchmen contract, including the reversion clause, is still in effect. There remains a possibility that Moore & Gibbons will get the full rights back at some point. (Granted the book doesn’t look like it’s going OOP anytime soon but it’s not out of the question – I’ve heard anecdotally that interest in the book has waned since the movie.)

    – Moore & Gibbons considered doing prequels themselves, and Gibbons in particular was enthusiastic about the idea. Obviously there’s a difference between them agreeing to do it vs. it being done without their approval, but it’s not unfathomable that someone could find the idea of additional Watchmen material to be a good idea.

    – Contracts aren’t unfair just because they work out differently than the parties intended. If there’s a memo somewhere on DC letterhead indicating that the company *knew*, when it negotiated the Watchmen deal, that it would never let the book go OOP, then so be it. Absent that, though, most everyone can agree that the success of Watchmen was unprecedented and largely unforeseeable. All evidence suggests that it was unforeseeable to *everybody*, including DC. “Swindle” and “cheat” are words that imply intent – they’re not accusations that should be tossed around unless there’s evidence of intent beyond an unforeseen event occurring.

    None of that is intended to discount Moore’s feelings on BW. If he thinks he was swindled, there’s little point in trying to convince him otherwise, and certainly neither I nor anyone else here can speak to any conversations he may have had with folks at DC that are not memorialized in writing. The idea that DC obtained the rights to Watchmen via some sort of chicanery is not anywhere near as clear, though, as some want to paint it.


  56. @matches: word.


  57. […] Tom Spurgeon and David Brothers on Before Watchmen, the shame of […]


  58. @david brothers: David, thank you SO MUCH for your long, thoughtful response. As I’m sure you’ve gathered, I’ve worried that my posting here has been totally useless or worse bothersome to the discussion your trying to foster, and I’m very glad to be kicking the ball around on these ideas.

    As briefly as I can:

    When I said that a lack of good access to Moore meant that it was harder for us to cover this, I didn’t mean to imply that we’d ignore the issue on the whole, and I don’t think we have. What I meant was that the specific section of the site I oversee – the interviews and features in the “News” section of the CBR feed – has been built up in a way where doing what you called for – “organized dissent” – just hasn’t had a platform there. I think guys like Mautner have done a great job of providing that necessary response for CBR in general, but I honestly WISH I had the budget and (more importantly) the talent to showcase Editorial pieces on the CBR homepage more often. As it stands, Jonah and I’s attempts to find the right voice that we feel has a broad view of the industry and the issues hasn’t worked out yet. We’ll keep searching, I’m sure.

    I will disagree slightly that we “know what Moore is going to say.” I think there are some facts of the matter on this contract that only he’ll discuss that haven’t been dug at yet, largely because the people he’s spoken with don’t seem to have the background knowledge to dig into that a little deeper with him (i.e. that “I read Wolverine and Maus one time” guy who did the big interview with him a month back).

    Regardless, I take your points here very much. I know there are some areas I think that you and I and a lot of the folks chiming in here would disagree on in terms of what the best use of time for a site like CBR is (for one, I find a lot of value in doing what everyone likes to call “promotional interviews” though I loath that term as it ignores ANY level of skepticism we bring to our job even when discussing purely creative concerns, and I think that value goes beyond benefitting the companies first and foremost, but that’s a whole different discussion), but like I said above, I’ve very much been struggling with how to best cover this stuff.

    I feel it’s important to cover the Before Watchmen books not only for the issues of creator treatment and ethical concerns, but also because the assumed market power they’ll have and what is an undeniable level of interest one way or the other from my core audience make ignoring the books on their own terms a huge failure in terms of our basic news mandate. But yeah, we should be striking a stronger balance, and I’m working to correct that as we get closer to on sale.

    One last note I’ll add is that if there’s one thing about all these “comics journalism” discussions that really drives me crazy in terms of trying to get honest discussion together is that the “common knowledge” everyone seems to have on how we run our site is just so, so, so, so, so, SOOOOOOO flawed, it’s maddening. This isn’t just the constant calls of how we’re just in the pocket of DC and Marvel or whatever, but even ideas like how I can “get David Hyde or Arune Singh to get somebody to talk to me about this stuff” are kind of off the mark.

    I’d say that maybe one in ten requests for interviews with executives at DC and Marvel that cover topics other than new product shipping are turned down immediately after we pitch. The interviews we do get on this stuff – the recent talk with Buckley and Quesada about the Gary Friedrich case comes to mind – usually come at the end of a long, protracted back and forth of us trying to get them to speak publicly about this stuff. Surely, we could take the Rich Johnston track and totally disengage from the publishers and their publicity machine, but like I said, I think we get more better information on a whole range of topics by engaging directly with the companies even when its on the very unfavorable terms that come with an industry held in the grip of two companies and one distributor.

    Anyway, I will take all the talk here today to heart, and with luck, some of our future coverage on Before Watchmen will reflect it in a way that helps match what you were looking for when you wrote this blog post.

    Thanks!


  59. Kiel,

    Interesting you mention not letting your opinions “coloring your questioning.” There was one instance awhile back where you talked to D. Didio and that happened, quite glaringly:

    Well, I think for some that the focus gets put on characters that fail one way or another. At the same time as this has been going on, there’s been a lot of positive talk of Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle getting a push for live action. How do you view your role in terms of making sure that successes are carried through in a long term way?

    Now, in his subsequent answer, Didio dismissed specific questions about characters of color as “inappropriate.” And the matter was dropped right there, which was, to say the least, disappointing; I wrote at the time that you dropped the ball, and I have to stand by that statement in revisiting the piece. And Rich Johnston’s critique still stands, too.

    Full disclosure: I called CBR to follow up with you on it and spoke to Jonah, but the message never got back to you. Because the thing is this: you talk about “your readers,” but situations like this one highlight the fact that there’s still other readers out there who want the people covering these corporate executives to ask more questions on their behalf on issues like creators’ rights, gender/race/sexual diversity and so forth. Maybe you’ll lose some fans by pushing back more often, but in time I think CBR and the like really would gain more, because then you really would be representing more of the fanbase, and it can’t help but benefit fandom journalism as a profession to be more of an advocate for consumers than for industry forces.


  60. @Arturo R. Garcia: see today’s Geoff John interview for mosre of the same.

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=38217


  61. David:

    Alan David Doane also wrote in opposition to Before Watchmen over on troublewithcomics.com

    In fact, his posts were probably the more scathing of any I read at the time (appropriately so).


  62. Hey Arturo!

    Thanks for the comments. When I say that I try not to let my own opinions color my questions, what I mean is that I try not to go into interviews with anyone and argue that I’m right and they’re wrong. In the Didio case, I’ll admit that while I saw (and continue to see) a lot of talk from certain circles online from people upset over things like the death of Ryan Choi, but I’ve seen an equal if not bigger number of people both online and at events who enjoy things like Blue Beetle and DC’s efforts on the whole. So to me, the interesting line of questioning was one of volume: what does DC think is a good and respectful level of diversity for their line and how well do they feel they’re achieving that?

    Once that’s out there on the company, I try to look and see which parts of the readership accept or deny that they’ve done enough. What’s the real answer as to exactly what DC should do in terms of diversity in its books? I have no idea. One of the reasons I don’t write commentary is that I don’t have a lot of strong opinions on what has to be done at the Big Two like folks like David do. So to me, the exercise is in facilitating the discussion between the two factions as best I can.

    Was that Didio interview my best one ever? Probably not, but I hardly think I’m arguing for his position there. I know some people would prefer that we only talk about the most fervent criticisms lobbied at the publisher’s until they somehow submit to the opinion of those online, but I’ve found that in terms of interest and impact, most of the readers of the site care more about creative and story content, so it’s always a balancing act to try and get honest responses on the former while discussing the latter for the average comics consumer.

    As for your call, I’m sorry we were unable to hook up. I don’t even talk to Jonah on the phone everyday (plus, he’s super forgetful) so it must have slipped through the cracks somewhere. If ever you have a question or a comment about something I’ve written, please feel free to e-mail me. It’s kphegley [at] comicbookresources [dot] com. I’ll admit I’m not always the most timely respondent, but I do my best.

    And with that, I too am going to retire from this thread for a while. The “E-mail me” invite is open to anyone else who reads these posts! Now, go read more of David’s actual blog and less of my self-absorbed bullshit!


  63. @RS David: Derp.

    Okay, one more comment. I’ll admit that the Geoff interview wasn’t my best in terms of getting at those issues. I was tired and distracted, but it’s no excuse. Still, I view all these conversations as ongoing ones, so there’s more room to discuss this stuff moving forward. Thanks!


  64. Thanks, RJ David. Yeah, see, how is this an answer for a question dealing with the killing of a hero of color?

    Well, “The Others” is about an international group of heroes being hunted by Black Manta, so there are casualties in here. We have Ya’wara, who’s from Brazil [and] is a major character in the book. Diversity is super important to the DCU. This is part of the story. This is all part of the story.


  65. Most. Beautiful. Post. On This Website. Ever.


  66. “Industry standards at the time the contract was signed is typically considered beyond parol evidence”

    Uh, my vague recollection is that rule only applies as to terminology which gives rise to an ambiguity. And granted, ambiguities are construed against the drafter but to even be discussing ambiguous terms/provisions in a contract you’ve never read is… an interesting exercise.

    “But if a partner at a law firm put Moore’s contract in front of me and explained the situation, I would expect to research all manner of possible theories from unjust enrichment to unconscionability to (as I said) intentional non-performance of a condition precedent, and possibly even challenge the work-for-hire clause itself. Sure, it may sound crazy, but that’s what lawyers are supposed to do– go completely to bat for your client and leave no stone unturned.”

    Good luck with the Bar. I suggest you ask an older attorney what the phrase “putting lipstick on a pig” means, at some point.


  67. @SomerandomGuy: “so how long until the book Strawmen comes out? I would love a in depth comic on Alan’s issue written and drawn similar to watchmen(not a direct spoof or recreation just in alan moore writing).”

    Great, now someone’s going to beat me to the punch.


  68. (Just to clarify: it’s also my vague recollection that industry custom and practice can be used to clarify the meaning of terms, if definitions for those terms are absent, but… again, doesn’t seem very useful in this context).


  69. @david brothers: “Marc-Oliver Frisch is the only guy I’ve seen who wants a bludgeoning (sorry if I’m misrepresenting, Marc-Oliver, but that’s the feeling I got on Twitter yesterday)”

    Ouch.

    For the record, no, a bludgeoning is the last thing I want, and I thought I’d made that clear, but I guess I failed.

    I don’t think DC is the villain and Moore is the good guy, nor do I think this is a new and unique situation. (I wrote this a while back, and I stand by it: http://comiksdebris.blogspot.de/2012/02/liars-damn-liars-and-watchmen-fans.html )

    What I want is, quite simply, a comics press that deserves the name and keeps asking the questions that need to be asked until we get answers, not one that lets DC or Straczynski or Azzarello or even Moore (who has yet to be asked some tough questions himself) off the hook as easily as they usually do. I want this industry to grow up, and its creators, publishers, press and audience to treat each other like adults.

    BEFORE WATCHMEN is just the most recent in a long line of examples that make the necessity for this to happen abundantly clear.

    No more, no less.


  70. Everyone involved with Before Watchmen handles criticism about as well as a republican party wonk.


  71. @Arturo R. Garcia: Christ, that’s his answer to EVERYTHING. “Derf derf, he’s the villain!” Does ANYONE say no to him anymore?


  72. The Watchmen characters only exist because DC told Moore to create them. He was originally given a group of characters he didn’t create, and DC owned outright but couldn’t write the story without destorying them. Since DC still wanted the story it was decided to use new characters.

    If DC had invented the Elseworlds title two years early, or had not done CoIE when it did, allowing them to publish multiple versions of the same characters at once the whole question of ownership might have been avoided, plainly in DC’s favor


  73. Anyway, you used a similar rationale then. You said that you could either waste time trying to get Didio to say what you wanted or you could spend your thirty minutes asking questions that would get answers.

    Anyone who thinks that asking a question a subject doesn’t want to answer has no journalistic value should watch Paxman’s interview with Michael Howard every day for a month:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uwlsd8RAoqI

    As I understand it, Dave Sim was kind of a pioneer in publishing those Cerebus “phonebooks” (again, can’t speak for Elfquest) and working in spheres outside of DC’s abilities/interests/radar, so to me that example seems closer to “exception that proves the rule” territory.

    Nat did note that these were exceptions, and I’ll note that his example is even pre-“phonebook” – the Swords Of Cerebus volumes were his first of three different solutions to having his early work in print and accessible for new readers – eventually he decided that trade paperbacks reprinting a mere six issues were a ripoff and inefficient for the readers and marketplace.

    - re: #8 – Moore refused money from DC for the Watchmen movie and its sequelae (i.e. the ancillary material like toys). He has not, to my knowledge, refused royalties for continued publication of the book itself, and as far as I know continues to this day to receive those royalties.

    He does still, but actually requested that DC both stop sending him royalties and TAKE HIS NAME OFF THE BOOK on V For Vendetta, after the Joel-Silver-lying-in-public-about-Moore’s-opinion-and-statements kerfuffle. This may have included Watchmen at the time too? His stance was that if they thought so little of his attitudes and value as creator of the work, they ought not to use his name as a selling point. Obviously they ignored him, which was of course the point he expected to be made.


  74. Where does this assumption that Cerebus existed outside of the awareness of the industry come from? Folks at the Big Two were not unaware of what was going on in the direct market. The first Cerebus story to appear in a Marvel comic was in February of 1983 (Epic Illustrated 16), although he was being parodied in X-Men in mid-1982. DC started trying to buy out Cerebus in 1985.

    Donning/Starblaze started their lovely colorized reprints of ElfQuest in 1981, releasing a new volume each year for four years, and keeping the earlier ones in print. They got attention, finding a home in bookstores (in the game section). Marvel published their first ElfQuest story in 1980; starting in 1985, they published an ElfQuest series.


  75. @Marc-Oliver Frisch: “What’s supposed to make these sequels any more outrageous than the continued publication of Superman or Captain America, whose creators haven’t fared any better, when it comes to controlling their creations?”

    The fact that when Moore and Gibbons signed their contract with DC, they had a reasonable expectation that the rights would revert to them in a few years.


  76. @Prodigal: “a reasonable expectation” – maybe. not a guaranteed expectation. I don’t understand the Moore was “wronged” or “cheated” argument.

    One of the most imaginative minds of our generation could not IMAGINE that POSSIBLY a book could be kept in print indefinitely. Really?

    If Moore didn’t like the terms he didn’t have to sign the contract. Simple as that.


  77. @Nat Gertler: I didn’t mean to imply that nobody in the industry was aware of Cerebus, sorry if it seemed that way. It’s just that collecting issues and keeping them in print wasn’t exactly as widespread as it is now (ignoring Marvel’s refusal to do so), so if someone were to bring up Cerebus in that kind of conversation, I kinda imagine the DC response being, “Well, that’s different. That’s one guy hustling by himself. That’s not us. That kind of practice isn’t part of our business model,” and so on.

    No matter who’s aware of who, what Dave Sim was up to publishing comics on his own and what a big company like DC Comics were up to publishing their books are certainly completely different worlds.


  78. @Prodigal: “The fact that when Moore and Gibbons signed their contract with DC, they had a reasonable expectation that the rights would revert to them in a few years.”

    That’s an awfully technical distinction. Does this make it less wrong of Marvel to screw Simon and Kirby, or of DC to screw Siegel and Shuster? I don’t think so. I’d like publishers to stop screwing creators, period. Not just those creators we perceive as having committed great works of Literature and Art, but also the ones who came up with the Ghost Riders and the Black Lightnings.

    As long as we don’t find a way to let creators control and share in the characters and stories they create “for hire” in more significant ways, these kinds of conflicts will never end. This is not a WATCHMEN issue. It’s a U.S. mainstream comics issue. That was my point.


  79. “if newsarama knew better, it would do better”

    See, this where your fatal flaw comes in to play.

    Newsarama is the Wizard magazine for the internet era. They’re a PR distribution system. Expecting anything more than fanboy ass-kissing from them is unrealistic.


  80. @Kit:

    @Kit – Was that with reference to the V book or just the movie? I recall Moore didn’t want his name associated with the movie and had a big blowup with DC over it. You’ll note that neither the V nor Watchmen movies have Moore’s name in the credits, per his request. AFAIK he continues to accept credit for, and royalties from, the books themselves though (as well as all the other DC-owned material still in print).

    And I’m not casting aspersions on that at all – he’s entitled to that credit and those royalties and should get them. At times the dialog on this issue suggests that Moore is getting *nothing* from DC (ala Kirby), when that’s not at all the case.


  81. @Adam Tupper:
    Sites like your beloved Comics Alliance are leading the charge, crying for creators’ rights when no one else is including the creators, claiming racist overtones when none exist…

    And this is where I realized you had nothing worthwhile to say.


  82. […] And here’s a nice summary that uses links and bullet points like this very blog post, but more effectively, from David Brothers: “if newsarama knew better, it would do better.” […]


  83. You remain the single writer in all of the comics landscape that actually says reasonable shit about things that are happening.


  84. […] Comics | David Brothers is tired of the denial that there is a “controversy” over DC Comics’ upcoming Before Watchmen series, so he lays out the facts, explains why there is indeed a controversy, and skewers the arguments DC has been putting forward in favor of the book: “I don’t know how to put it any plainer. DC Comics is screwing Alan Moore right here in front of us, and the best Newsarama has to offer is that it’s a ‘so-called “controversy”’? One, it is a controversy, and two, you don’t just not talk about the controversy because the books are going to come out anyway. What kind of fatalist, ridiculous garbage is that? I mean, gosh, you don’t tell somebody with cancer, ‘Look, we both know you got some cancers up in there, so why don’t we talk about the weather, instead?’” [4thletter!] […]


  85. You are not getting screwed if those are the rules that you chose to play by. I love how people think that life is supposed to be fair. Yeah, I will be buying these books. More than likely I will be enjoying them. My advice is that if you do not like the idea, do not buy them! Save your outrage for a cause that is worthy, like gun control or local poverty.

    What did you do with your free time before there was an internet? Jeez.


  86. Super enjoying the slightly more inside-baseball take of these recent posts, David. Also kudos to Kiel for answering honestly without going all nuclear. Being able to discuss/disagree/agree maturely about important, foundational issues is not always our strong point in comics, and it’s encouraging to see.


  87. Amen, Brothers.


  88. @Travis: I love how people think that we shouldn’t try to make life fair.


  89. @Dustin Harbin: Thanks Dustin. I think me and Kiel disagree pretty definitively, but I’d much rather talk it out than shout it out at this point.

    @Travis: Before the internet? I did a lot of standing on street corners, shouting at people about how awesome Jim Lee’s X-Men is and playing Star Fox 64.

    @matches: You’re right, I should’ve mentioned that Moore still receives book royalties.


  90. @Travis: “Save your outrage for a cause that is worthy, like gun control or local poverty.”

    Such a juvenile mindset. “Oh, you care about this, therefore you don’t care about that! And since that is a real issue, you’re just being silly.” People really need to stop embarrassing the human race with this tired fallacy.


  91. @Andrew: Never mind that creators’ rights issues are a subset of workers’ rights issues, and at a time when workers’ rights are under attack, trying to say this isn’t a “worthy” cause comes across like so much spin control.


  92. @Andrew: Before Strawmen. Read what the Strawmen did before the event that made the cult classic. “The book will fill in the gaps fanboys ask when watching the Strawmen movie.”


  93. @awesomedue: “One of the most imaginative minds of our generation could not IMAGINE that POSSIBLY a book could be kept in print indefinitely. Really?”

    Since that had never happened before to a book from one of the Big Two at the time he signed the contract, yes. Really. And you’re being disingenuous with that “if he didn’t like the contract, why did he sign it” noise, because the issue with Moore wasn’t that he didn’t like the contract when he signed it (since the wording made it a more generous contract than the industry standard at the time, and therefore was something any creator would have liked); its that DC took advantage of a loophole to violate the spirit of the contract while abiding by the letter of the thing.

    @Marc-Oliver Frisch: “Does this make it less wrong of Marvel to screw Simon and Kirby, or of DC to screw Siegel and Shuster? I don’t think so.”

    That’s nice, but it’s at best tangential to the previous questions of yours that I was replying to. You asked what made the existence of Before Watchmen more outrageous than the continued publication of Superman or Captain America. My argument is that it is the publishers buying the rights to Captain America and Superman outright, whereas they exploited a loophole that, at the time the contracts were signed with Moore and Gibbons, nobody could reasonably be expected to have foreseen, is what makes it so.


  94. @Prodigal: “That’s nice, but it’s at best tangential to the previous questions of yours that I was replying to.”

    I disagree. My argument is a moral one, while you’re comparing the specific legal and technical circumstances of each case. That’s fine, too, but it’s not what I’m talking about.


  95. […] 4thLetter’s David Brothers continues to write the only articles about comics worth reading. Addressing “Before Watchmen”, he talks about the actual shit that actually matters […]


  96. David, I just read this for a second time and whatever anyone actually thinks about your eventual opinions (tho’ I agree with most of it), I hope they appreciate your desire to process your feelings about this subject honestly. You’ve clearly done some soul-searching, and it’s admirable.

    I’m not in the least bit surprised or disappointed by DC doing BW. They’re a company, and for whatever reason they decided that they finally needed to exploit Watchmen more than they have. The movie broke the ice. After that, the comics were inevitable, whether they came in 2011, 2012, 2022 or beyond. This is almost certainly a fact. It’s somewhat surprising it didn’t happen sooner — namely, the moment they realized their relationship with Moore was irretrievably broken.

    So, yeah, DC acting cravenly? Whatever, that’s par for the course. But I’m slightly surprised by how those in a position to influence the debate — namely the comics media — have been unwilling to take a stand (with the stark exception of The Comics Reporter), one way or the other, and instead do their best to have it both ways and occasionally mention the controversy while posting every piece of teaser art and live tweeting panels because they have a “professional obligation”. Which is really all about traffic and an unwillingness to sacrifice any, not to mention jeopardizing any relationship with DC.

    Questioning the motivations and logic and morality of DC in doing this is absolutely, perfectly reasonable, and even DC should acknowledge this and debate it head on. Where you fall on each of these questions is immaterial. The point is, whatever the answers, the questions are fair. Folks like Strazynski, et. al. and their bullying dismissals of any criticism tells me they’re perfect for the job of exhuming Watchmen’s corpse.


  97. I would to see this as a poll. Ask those fans who support “Before Watchmen” if they support George Lucas’ changes to Star Wars. I can’t imagine ANY of them do. Now instead of one guy screwing with greatest we got many “chefs” pissing in the pot. Straczynski and the rest of the “Before Watchmen” “creators” have probably written blogs and tweets railing against George Lucas. I support Lucas’ right to screwup star wars AND Alan Moore’s right to not want the same thing done to Watchmen.


  98. @matches: Yeah, it was the book of V for sure, and I think Watchmen as well. It was a Canute-like request, though, made just to prove his point.


  99. @Marc-Oliver Frisch: “My argument is a moral one, while you’re comparing the specific legal and technical circumstances of each case. That’s fine, too, but it’s not what I’m talking about.”

    You asked what made the existence of Before Watchmen more outrageous than the continued publication of Superman or Captain America, Marc – why Moore’s lack of control of his creation wasn’t equivalent to Siegel, Schuster, and Kirby’s lack of control of theirs – and you wrote that people who found it to be so are hypocrites.

    The problem with your position is that the specific legal and technical circumstances that you want to avoid discussing are the crux of why it’s different, and why your accusations of hypocrisy don’t hold up. Based on the terms of the contracts that Siegel, Schuster, and Kirby signed, control of their creations was being sold to DC and Marvel. Based on the letter of the contract Moore signed, DC was renting control of his. And based on the way things were done by the major publishers at the time he had every reason to expect that DC’s rental of control of his creations would end within a few years.

    And that’s why the people you chose to complain about aren’t hypocrites, and your blog post about them was written in bad faith.


  100. @Prodigal: With respect, the idea that a contingency that’s expressly spelled out in the contract is a “loophole” is a seriously strained definition of the term.


  101. It’s also worth noting that, according to Moore, the idea that the book would go out of print wasn’t just an assumption on his part, but a direct assurance made by a publisher he was, at the time, on good terms with.


  102. I have been a consistent reader of everything Azzarello does and he’s one of those writers that I had hoped to read his complete work. But I will never read any Before Watchmen book.


  103. @James W: A good point, and if true it does go a long way toward establishing some sort of dirty dealing or bad faith on the part of DC. I just find it difficult to evaluate people’s recollections of conversations 25 years after the fact. Not calling Moore a liar at all, but one of the big reasons the law wants all this stuff reduced to writing is that it’s a mess to wade through people’s imperfect memories after the fact. It’s amazing how often two people come away from a conversation with completely contrary ideas about what was said.


  104. I watched the fourth episode of Luck yesterday, and there was this great exchange that just nukes that “more fool them for signing” nonsense (which, to be fair, I haven’t seen much of here).

    “They take a sucker mortgage, what do they expect? Didn’t they read the contract?”
    “Well, that’s an asshole, eighth grade observation.”


  105. @Steve K.: There’s a transcript of a panel he and Gibbons did somewhere, from 1986-7, where they talk about their understanding that they’ll be getting the rights back at some point… not conclusive, but still.


  106. @Prodigal: “… the specific legal and technical circumstances that you want to avoid discussing …”

    Look: I wrote an essay about how it’s morally wrong to screw creators, period, no matter the specific legal circumstances. You insist that the legal circumstances are different in each case. I hope you see why this doesn’t work, because I can’t make it any clearer than I have.

    Thanks for reading my essay.


  107. @Marc-Oliver Frisch: “Look: I wrote an essay about how it’s morally wrong to screw creators, period, no matter the specific legal circumstances.”

    And in at least one part of that essay, you called people who find BW more objectionable than the continued publication of Superman and Captain America hypocrites. The different legal circumstances are why you were wrong.


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