Before Watchmen Is Comic Book Poison

June 5th, 2012 by | Tags: , , ,

One more time, since we’re about to suddenly become a post-Before Watchmen society. Buying Before Watchmen is a vote for:

-A comics industry that prizes properties over creators
-A comics industry that will effortlessly use its legal muscle to screw over creators
-A comics industry that strip-mines the past at the expense of the future

I don’t know how to put it any plainer than that. Before Watchmen is an attempt to recapture past glories with a crop of A-list talent, instead of creating new glories with that exact same talent. Azzarello? Cooke? Conner? These folks create classics, and instead of hiring them to do that, DC’s hired them to fulfill some top down publishing edict to wring all the money they can out of Moore & Gibbons Watchmen, no matter what. It’s stupid and short-sighted.

Here’s how DC thinks about comic books, from a recent USA Today piece:

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

The first half of this sentence is so wrong as to be laughable. The second half is so corporate it’s depressing. Properties: code word, meaning “something we can exploit in other media or in the future.” They aren’t characters. They definitely aren’t art. They’re properties. I wish there was a whiny baby font so I could really get across my disgust with Didio’s position.

The stuff about building on other people’s legacies… no. That’s not the strength of comics at all. The strength of comics is the creators, the men and women armed with pens and pencils who go in and make the stories go, who craft classics that are so good that it’s like they’re daring us not to like them. I don’t like Frank Miller’s Daredevil because of what Stan Lee and Bill Everett brought to the character. I like Frank Miller’s Daredevil because Frank Miller showed me things I’d never seen before. That’s the same reason I like Gene Colan’s version, or John Romita Jr’s version, or Alex Maleev’s version.

Dan Didio is objectively wrong about the strength of comics. He’s towing the company line, which is that the dissent against Before Watchmen is about Alan Moore being pissy over people using “his” characters. That, in turn, enables all the asinine remarks about how Lost Girls or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is the same thing.

The thing is, it’s not about characters. It’s about ethics. It’s always been about ethics, no matter how often scumbags like Joseph Michael Stracynzski suggest otherwise. It’s about not taking advantage of the letter of the law to push forward with unethical projects. It’s about respecting the talent and the things they bring to the table.

But to DC, it’s about toys. “Why doesn’t Alan let us play with his toys, huh? Why’s he so stingy?” And I know that the comics press is going to enable these guys to get their way. Betting on whether or not a bunch of reviews open with some variant of “Despite the controversy, Before Watchmen is pretty good” or “While a vocal minority expressed a rabid dislike for these books, sight unseen, blah blah blah” is a sucker bet. Of course it’ll happen. Gotta protect those relationships to maintain access!

I dunno, man. Before Watchmen is loathsome. It’s going to come out and people are going to buy it, but my advice to you, my request, is that you think about the series and what it represents, and then decide if that’s the comics industry you want to build for yourself. If you just want to read Batman comics month in, month out, no matter who’s doing them, fine. That’s your thing. But if you want one where creators are respected, maybe give some thought to not buying the series, and telling DC what you think on Twitter, via email, during San Diego Comic-Con… get up in their face. Force them to talk about it in public.

A lot of creators, from indie megastars like Bryan Lee O’Malley to Big Two mainstays like Chris Roberson have expressed dissent, to put it nicely, about Before Watchmen. People care about this, and it’s not just because Watchmen was a really good comic however many years ago. It’s because creators’ rights matter, respect matters, and ethics matter. Alan Moore is one of the most respected and important people in comics. If they’ll put him to the wall, what do you think they’ll do to you? Pay attention to what these companies are saying behind the con announcements and press releases. Before Watchmen has a very clear message, and don’t be surprised when Before Watchmen II is announced next year.

I don’t want the industry that DC is trying to shore up. Not even remotely. There’s too many good comics out there to let Before Watchmen be what defines our industry and our habits as consumers.

Don’t buy Before Watchmen.

Here’s some further reading if you need convincing.
-Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in conversation with Neil Gaiman (!) in The Comics Journal 116, July 1987, TCJ recently uploaded a transcript
-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”
-Ryan Dunlavey & Fred Van Lente’s Comic Book Comics #5 [preview]
-Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson’s “NO FUN”
-Chris Mautner’s “We’ve come so far: On Before Watchmen and creators rights”
-Michael Dean’s “Kirby and Goliath: The Fight for Jack Kirby’s Marvel Artwork”
-Kurt Amacker interviews Alan Moore.
-Frank Miller’s “Keynote Speech By Frank Miller To Diamond Comic Distributors Retailers Seminar, June 12th, 1994” (from the pages of Sin City: The Big Fat Kill #5)
-The Comics Journal’s “The Four Page Agreement”
-Milo George & The Comics Journal’s The Comics Journal Library: Jack Kirby
-Michael Dean’s “Marvel/Disney’s Win Against Jack Kirby Heirs Not About Fairness” and Kirby and Goliath: The Fight for Jack Kirby’s Marvel Artwork”
-Gary Groth’s “Jack Kirby Interview”
-Steven R Bissette’s “Marvel/Disney v Kirby: Part 2” and “Marvel/Disney v Kirby: Do Avengers Avenge… Or Not?”
-This incredibly relevant Youtube clip from The Wire, if you need a pithy explanation on how depressing creators’ rights can be

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51 comments to “Before Watchmen Is Comic Book Poison”

  1. “The first half of this sentence is so wrong as to be laughable. The second half is so corporate it’s depressing. Properties: code word, meaning “something we can exploit in other media or in the future.” They aren’t characters. They definitely aren’t art. They’re properties. I wish there was a whiny baby font so I could really get across my disgust with Didio’s position.”

    But that isn’t wrong.
    EVERYTHING that people outside of the rather small niche market that is comic book fans know are properties. They’re the characters that dozens of writers have gotten their hands upon and left little marks on and altered, characters that no single writer has defined. You’re complaining about that DiDio and DC want to destroy creator rights, but without these lack of creator rights we wouldn’t have the characters that so many love and cherish.

  2. @Matthew: You’re not right, though. Creators’ rights don’t preclude other people working on those comics. Hellboy’s a creator-owned comic and has a strong work for hire component. Creators’ rights is about being fair to the creator of the material and negotiating fair terms with the talent working on the comics. It doesn’t mean Spider-Man goes away. It means that the dude who created a surprise hit villain who shows up in a movie gets a check for his hard work… which is what DC does already, despite their failings in other areas of creators’ rights. I think Len Wein has talked about how he’s made more money for co-creating Lucius Fox than he ever got for creating Wolverine, who is an objectively more popular character for that exact reason.

    Creators’ rights are not about making capes go away. It’s about prizing the people who made the capes such a wonderful part of our culture. Didio’s quote focuses explicitly on the properties, on the characters, at the expense of the creators. Before Watchmen reinforces the idea that the characters are bigger than the creators, which is odious when discussing the follow-up to a book that was explicitly positioned by DC Comics as an exemplar of creators’ rights.

  3. “You’re complaining about that DiDio and DC want to destroy creator rights, but without these lack of creator rights we wouldn’t have the characters that so many love and cherish.” Matthew

    That comment is only true if you believe in the fallacy that there’d be no comics without DC or Marvel. It also says that Stan, Kirby, Ditko, Simon, Eisner, Seigel, Shuster, Marston, wouldn’t have created their respective comic characters if Marvel hadn’t been there, which is complete BS. If they hadn’t done them for MArvel or DC, someone would’ve published them.

    I mean, did JK Rowling having the rights to Harry Potter keep the readers from getting the characters they love and cherish? Last time I checked, the fans got 8 movies, untold merchandise, and a theme park section out of it so I don’t think having proper rights for creators is the bane you think it is. Certainly, Rowling won’t die broke and/or be near homeless in her 80s like unfortunately so many of the past creators that gave you those characters did.

    Dick Tracy, Popeye, The Spirit, Astro Boy, Asterix, Little Nemo, The Walking Dead, Cerebus, Hellboy, Judge Dredd, Spawn (regardless of how aimless it’s become), Savage Dragon, Captain Harlock, Valerian, TMNT, Sin City, Martha Washington, Invincible, Transmepolitan, PREACHER the list goes on. But there will ALWAYS be creators and comics whether DC or MArvel exists to chokehold the market or not.

    You ask me, the biggest thing that could ever help American comics is for DC and MArvel to get out the game. Unless they’re going to act like a proper publisher that gives their creators the rights of even a standard typical novelist contract along the lines of Stephen King, Rowling, Meyers, Elmore Leonard, etc.

  4. For some fun reading about the origins of Watchmen, an early TCJ interview with Moore & Gibbons is here. Good stuff.

  5. […] Brothers of 4thletter! is a smart guy who says some smart things. Yesterday he said some smart things about Before Watchmen, DC Comics’ latest cynical cash […]

  6. Graci!

  7. for the TCJ interview.

  8. “They weren’t doing anything with the Charlton super-heroes. I just thought that they were all lying around, up for grabs[…]” – Defender of creators’ rights Alan Moore, ladies and gentlemen.

    Seriously. What’s so special about Before Watchmen? Nothing about those things you’re “voting for” if you buy Before Watchmen is different from any other DC or Marvel book. If I buy Silk Spectre, I’m voting for Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner, because they’re creators whose work I like. Just like when I bought Watchmen, it was a vote for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, creators whose work I like. No, Conner and Cooke didn’t create Silk Spectre, but Moore and Gibbons didn’t really create her either. She essentially Nightshade with some Black Canary. If they weren’t working for DC, they probably would have been sued by DC, just the way Fawcett was for ripping off Superman.

    I can’t disagree with your second point in any way. It’s valid. But it’s also as true for the X-Men as it is for the Minutemen.

    To the third point. The industry is strip-mining the past in 2012 is nothing new. It’s also only as true as you let it be true. Regardless of who buys, or doesn’t buy, Before Watchmen. Regardless of whether there is a Before Before Watchmen, or an After Watchmen, the original Watchmen will still be really, really great.

    I get the fight for creators’ rights, but I still don’t get why Before Watchmen is the hill where so many people are making a stand.

  9. @Scoops: Continue reading Moore’s remarks. He didn’t happen across some Charlton comics and decide to do a sequel. He knew that DC had purchased them recently (well, relatively recently) and they were laying fallow. He had an idea (independent of the Charlton heroes) and thought he could apply them to those heroes for DC’s benefit. Then DC told him, “Nah, we want to use these differently, but definitely do that thing you just told us. And we’ll let you own it, too.” And Moore & Gibbons created something new, with only the loosest of ties to the old.

    “Moore and Gibbons didn’t really create her either” is unbelievably wrong. A superficial resemblance has barely anything at all to do with who Silk Spectre is. Supreme and the guy from Supreme Power are basically Superman, but they are undeniably distinct (legally and creatively) characters who were created by other men.

    You could make a case for other Marvel/DC books being the same as Before Watchmen. On some days out of the week, I’d agree with you. It’s complicated. But fair contracts do exist for a lot of characters in the mainstream, which I feel colors the matter some. I’m still working that train of thought out for myself, to be perfectly honest.

    Before Watchmen is the hill because it is happening right now. It’s a company screwing a man they’ve screwed before, a guy who is considered one of the GOATs. Only this time they’re using a book that was paraded around as a fantastic example of creator-ownership (hence the rights reversion clause) and creating more stories in that world against his will and claiming that they’re doing it to honor him and Dave Gibbons, who has given only the most tepid of approvals to the project. It’s like using your AA chip to crack open a beer or something. It flies in the face of what Watchmen represents, which isn’t “cool characters.”

    It’s that it’s happening here and now, and that now everyone has access to comics history thanks to the internet. it’s impossible to ignore.

    Don’t try to paint Moore as some type of hypocrite for a lazy zing. He’s been very honest about creators’ rights in every single thing I’ve read on the issue.

  10. dude, you are awesome. i wish i had the articulation and conciseness (?) or the sheer clear-headed power in your writing that you have. i feel like i’ve said this before but you’re such a force for good in comics, thanks for continuing to write about the problems in this field.

  11. The reason why Watchmen is the “straw that broke the camels back” for some people is because it’s Moore who is a big name and who hates DC vehemently and because they think Watchmen is one of the greatest works ever written. Now DC is of course evil because they’ve tramped on Moore’s rights by following the contract HE SIGNED. If DC openly violated the contract, you might have a point that DC was trampling on Moore’s rights as a creator, but.. they didn’t. Did Watchmen surprise everyone by being a massively popular series? Sure. But does that mean DC is wrong for keeping the rights if that is what the contract says? No. If Watchmen had been a miserable flop, would this whole thing be an issue? Not at all. It’s only that it IS popular and Moore wanted to take his toys home, but the contract he signed wouldn’t let him that the whole problem has erupted.

    Now DC has been painted as evil and trampling on creators rights for Before Watchmen, yet.. one of the creators of Watchmen (Ya know, Gibbons) is part of the project. Sure, he may just be a crappy little artist ya know like Tony Moore with Walking Dead (there is total sarcasm there, just stating), but he did help create the characters, their look, and the concept. But ya know, Moore’s wishes are all that matter here b/c he is the SOLE creator of Watchmen (except ya know.. that other guy, that nobody cares about).

    As for DC trampling on creators rights, huh.. really? They’ve given Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray back their rights to Monolith so it could be reprinted as an Image comic. They gave Peter David his rights to Fallen Angel so he could take it. So yeah, DC totally doesn’t believe in creator rights at all.

  12. @JanArrah: I dunno about this condescending to me under a comic book name business, but your first paragraph is wrong because it’s not just about the contract, despite what you people keep saying. It’s about DC sneaking out merch and cutting Moore & Gibbons out of the profits, DC’s pattern of behavior since, and you’re being hilariously reductive with that last sentence.

    The second paragraph is wrong because you’re reading my mind, and you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Third paragraph’s wrong because doing well in one area does not make you 100% good.

  13. Passionate arguments. I’m not outraged enough and I guess I’m too cynical about the frequency of this kind of thing to turn my back on these books. I’ll get it if it seems good and my wallet doesn’t bitch too much.

    I don’t disagree with that first part of what Didio said. I might even go so far as to strongly agree with him. That’s a huge part of serial fiction.

    I’m really fond of the characters and have wanted to see more of that world. For some reason, I think they’re likely to do a good job. (Pretty weird since I’m so unhappy with so many other things they’ve done.)

  14. […] I dont know who are those party dudes, not much to say today, all day working worried about the watchmen controversy and the lackluster lack of games that interest me at the […]

  15. @david brothers: My point with that quote was more that Moore is, and always has been, willing to take advantage of bad deals made by others, and of the legal system. I grant that the idea of the superhero murder mystery was Moore’s, but he was happy to play that out with characters that were invented by other people. In the end, he played it out with analogs of characters created by other people. I don’t believe for a second that Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre, and Rorschach were written any differently than Captain Atom, Nightshade, and the Question would have been written in Moore’s world. Moore was one editorial decision, and some nice costume redesigns by Dave Gibbons, away from strip-mining the past just to create Watchmen.

    I’m also not sure how much I buy that DC screwed Moore with the contract. I’ve read about the whole reversion thing many times. I get why, if you’re not really thinking about it when you sign, it seems like a good idea for the creator. I don’t know all the ins and outs of the comics business. Is it common for huge books to go out of print? Does the Dark Knight Returns go in and out of print, for example? Looking at the reversion idea though the prism of time passed, it seems like a lose/lose idea from the outset. If your book is a dog, DC stops re-printing it and it’s yours. But it’s still a dog. If it’s a hit, DC keeps printing it and you get nothing (well, residuals, but apparently he isn’t happy with that part of the deal and/or DC is screwing him there too).

    I suppose that’s where the legal vs ethical thing comes into it. Maybe DC never intended to let it go out of print, from the beginning. On the other hand, maybe Moore and Gibbons just made a deal that turned out to be spectacularly bad in retrospect.

    Furthermore if we’re going to argue legal vs ethical, then why can’t Lost Girls and the League be used in that context? Sure, it’s legal for Moore to take those public domain characters, but is that really fair to the legacies of guys like Lewis Caroll and H. Rider Haggard? And of course, not all of the characters he wanted to use for those stories were actually public domain, so we get the “Durling” children and “Jimmy”, the womanizing English spy. Is Moore not strip-mining the past for these stories? Does he not care more about the properties than the creators?

    Yes, Moore is a great writer. Maybe the best of all time. But do we give him more credit than he deserves? Is he just as “guilty” as the Before Watchmen writers, only with more talent?

  16. @Scoops: What bad deals has Moore taken advantage of? When he found out that Marvelman wasn’t actually owned by who he thought it was owned by, he apologized. When did he take advantage of the legal system? He hasn’t sued over Watchmen because he knows that Warners has bigger lawyers than he does. I’m genuinely asking here. You certainly don’t mean when he worked for Marvel and DC, do you?

    If you think that the Watchmen characters were written exactly like the Charltons, I don’t know what to tell you. Rorshach isn’t The Question so much as he is Mr A and… I’m spacing here, but a Ditko creation who wasn’t The Question. Same for Nite-Owl/Blue Beetle and most especially Manhattan. I don’t even know how you could see those characters evolving in the same way without being disingenuously reductive, I really don’t. The characters are so different in personality and execution that I don’t understand that train of thought at all.

    At the time, Watchmen’s contract was unprecedented and great for creators’ rights. There weren’t a lot of comics that were constantly in print, and Moore & Gibbons reasonably expected the rights to revert within a couple years of Watchmen 12. I’m hazy on the exact time period they expected, as it’s been a while since I read the interview. In other words, they expected to get the rights back, but they were caught by surprise by their own success. It’s not so much about being a hit vs a dog. It was a new thing. I firmly believe that everyone involved expected the book to go out of print after a couple (or a few) years, and then they made history. Shortly after, DC sold some merchandise they labeled as promotional, which meant Moore & Gibbons didn’t get a cut, and a DC higher up threatened Moore by saying that they can always make more Watchmen without him and that bridge was burnt.

    DC pays him royalties on Watchmen.

    re: legal vs ethical: I think those can be factored in, but the main different is that Moore isn’t creating Alice in Wonderland 2, Before James Bond, or After Dracula. He’s creating a distinct work, directly using characters that have fallen into public domain (after the author has died and the heirs have enjoyed the natural lifespan of the author’s creation) or alluding to them in the case of Jimmy what’shisface from LXG, which is also a well-known and oft-used literary trope. It’s fair to the legacies of those creators, I think (and this is my first time thinking about that specific question, so pardon any awkwardness) because those creators were in control of their characters throughout their life, and then they died with their legacies firmly established. Moore isn’t in that same position, and from what I can tell, has tried to behave honorably with regards to OPP, and has been honest about his motives in doing so.

    I think Moore’s tactic isn’t strip-mining the past just due to the fact that his entire body of work is not composed of twists on an earlier property. If you look at the New 52, you’ll find that the opposite is true. If some guy is occasionally going back to the past as part of the sum total of his creative endeavors, then sure, I’m cool with that. He’s clearly doing it for a reason. If he’s strictly going back to the past, then I start to get worried. If he is a company that takes up about half of the comics industry, I start to get REALLY worried.

    Moore’s a great writer. Not my favorite, but I can recognize his talent. I think he does get more credit than he deserves in certain areas, and I wish I’d personally done a better job addressing Dave Gibbons’s place in all of this. But it’s complicated and those feelings are evolving for me. I don’t think Moore is half as guilty as DC Comics. I’m still figuring out how I feel about the BW creators, since I already like so many of them. I can’t hate on somebody for taking a nice check, but I do wish they had been given those checks for something else. I don’t hate them. I just wish DC were a better company.

    I hope that stuff helps you see where I’m coming from.

  17. Scoops, don’t bother with your logical and objectivity. These things do not compute for the Moore defenders.

  18. @Heather: *critical hit* :negativeman:

  19. @Heather: I’m totally going to bother with my logical! That sounds like fun!

  20. Those freaking Moore defenders. How dare anyone defend one of the greatest living comic book writers from anything!

    The main take away here should be that if you think Watchmen as a property is more important than Alan Moore the creator, you’re unbelievably wrong, and didn’t understand what you read when you read Watchmen.

    But hey, enjoy that mediocre pile of Darwyn Cooke polished turd heading your way. Enjoy an industry that will eventually turn on every single creator you love until there is nothing left of them.

  21. @Sarah Velez: You’re probably right.

    Maybe I didn’t understand Watchmen in the way that many seem to. I don’t see all the artistic and technical talent that other do. I think the problem is much more about the system than this example, however. The Avengers is and was a huge hit. That hit is largely due to what Mark Millar did in the Ultimates series. I don’t hear anything about that, anywhere, although I’m hoping he at least gets a mention when the dvd/Blu-Ray debuts. But the list goes on and on.

    I’m not going to pass on this prequel project because of this system. It’d be more appropriate for me (for us) to pass on the entire mainstream comics system and I’m not going that far.

    From my perspective, there’s no reason that DC publish these works. Besides, unless I misunderstood one of David’s sentences, Moore’s getting royalties (which I guess he’s still refusing?) so I’m not sure how much more they’re supposed to do for him, at this point.

    It’s a deep issue, as this post and discussion demonstrates, but, in my opinion, that’s exactly why it’s not so cut and dried as “Don’t buy it.”

  22. @Matthew:

    Dude. Read what you’re saying. You just said it’s ofuckingkay to destroy creators rights because they allow for an endless amount of toys and merchandise for the common donominator (who are only like those characters for the NOVELTY).

    And what’s sad? That’s exactly how 90% of the comics readership feels. Creators get fucked over and starve, to die with nothing or a quarter of what they should? Ahhhh it’s okay, little Susie has her Wonder Woman toy!!

    I hate this fucking culture. So done.

  23. @david brothers: I realize the Watchmen are written differently from the Charlton characters we know. I mean that Moore wouldn’t have written the characters we know. And nobody would be sitting around complaining about all the changes he made to Captain Atom’s history. We’d all sit around and talk about what a brilliant deconstruction and re-imagining of an established, if obscure, character it was (hello there, Marvelman!).

    As to the taking advantage of other people’s bad deals, it was an oblique reference to him writing a character like Superman. Moore didn’t exactly back away and say, “You know, you guys have treated his creators rather badly. I think it would be in poor taste for me to work on that book.”

    And again, he was perfectly willing to do his Watchmen story with the Charlton characters. It’s not like Steve Ditko and his compatriots were going to see money from that. The characters they created belonged to Charlton, and Charlton sold to DC.

    The LXG/Lost Girls stuff is really what gets me though. No, they aren’t direct sequels to the stories, but they’re all built to make Moore money off other people’s creations. That may not have been their primary intent, but it is what they do. I have trouble with the idea that it’s okay to turn a children’s book character, created by a deeply religious man, and turn her into a drug addled sex-fiend. Do you think Carroll would appreciate that? Do you think it shows much respect for the original material? It may be legal. It may be interesting. It may be well done. It’s still a really cynical use of an established and well-known character.

    Before Watchmen may also be a cynical move by DC. Moore may not appreciate it. Given who’s involved, I think there’s a really good chance that it will actually respect the original material.

    In the end, I know “DC”, in the past, did do some shady things to Moore. As you mention, the “promotional” buttons. And I think Moore has questioned exactly how much he should be getting in royalties. But “DC” isn’t a continuous entity. Some executive(s) at DC burned Moore 25 years ago. Those guys are almost certainly gone. I don’t imagine that Jim Lee is sitting around saying, “Now that I’m a part of evil DC, I’m really going to stick it to Alan Moore too.”

    I think I mostly understand why Moore is mad, and I think I mostly understand his supporters. I just think his position is a combination of being grossly unforgiving, slightly hypocritical, and maybe a bit naïveté.

    And if I could just circle back to the “cool characters” comment. Watchmen, as an entire work, is amazing. I don’t know, personally, if I’d call any of the characters “cool”. When I first heard about the idea of Before Watchmen, I was unimpressed. Mostly that was because I don’t want to read the stories of Silk Spectre or the Minutemen in a vacuum. But then I saw the creative teams. I still don’t really care about Silk Spectre or the Minutemen, but I’ll read anything that Darwyn Cooke works on. Or that Amanda Conner works on. So I’ll probably read Silk Spectre and the Minutemen.

    So that’s where I end up. I’m voting for more books from creators I love. Maybe I’m also voting for strip-mining and properties, but I’m not convinced that supporting Alan Moore is a vote against those things either.

    Maybe the only winning move is not to play, but we’ve all been playing for so long.

  24. @JanArrah: As for DC trampling on creators rights, they wrote a contract that, based on the way the comic sbusiness worked at the time it was written, would have returned the rights to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons by 1989. They then found a loophole that let them avoid making good on their assurances, both written and verbal, that they would return the rights.

    As for them returning the rights for Monolith and Fallen Angel, do you honestly think that without the heat they’ve taken for screwing over Moore and Gibbons that they would be more likely to do that, rather than less?

  25. After seeing Darwyn Cooke get so angry and self-righteously indignant at his panel last year at Heroes Con about others taking a creation someone worked on for years and ruining it, and then he turns around and helms this, all my support and goodwill for Cooke have evaporated forever. Fuck Darwyn Cooke.

  26. @James: That’s not the kind of conversation I’m looking for in these comments, man. Leave it out.

  27. I love all the people who are like,”If you follow this through to its logical conclusion, you’d have to stop buying Marvel and DC books altogether, and WHO would do that??”

    I’d also love to see how many BW defenders got up in arms about the Whedonless Buffy reboot, or Dan Harmon’s removal from Community. When it’s movie studios making these decisions, fuck ’em. But when cool uncle DC does the same thing, he must have his reasons.

  28. But he is right. Darwyn Cooke has mouthed off quite a bit at both Heroes Con and other areas and then he goes and does Before Watchmen, pretty much the anti-thesis of everything he’s spoken on. Given how strong a stance he’s taken on his views, DC must’ve threw some serious, serious, serious cash at him to get him to sign on for this.

    JMS is JMS and I kind of expect this from him. Not Cooke.

  29. I don’t imagine that Jim Lee is sitting around saying, “Now that I’m a part of evil DC, I’m really going to stick it to Alan Moore too.”

    Jim Lee fucked Moore with a smile in 1993 by hijacking and then dropping the 1963 Annual. He fucked Moore with a smile in 1999 by selling his contracts to DC so they could backdoor Moore into their fold again. Why would it seem out of character to be fucking him in 2012, just because he’s smiling while he does it?

    yet.. one of the creators of Watchmen (Ya know, Gibbons) is part of the project.

    Gibbons is not only not part of the project, he’s actively declining to say anything about his opinion of the quality of the work involved. Read his single PR-quoted statement again, and listen to his commentary on the Word Balloons podcast.

  30. @Joe: We love you, too.

  31. @West: 😉 My point was that as far as I know, David’s done just that for a while, and he seems to be surviving. I’m not going that far, myself, I’m just not picking up Before Watchmen. If it tanks and there’s still a concentrated effort to put this kind of stuff out there, at least we know it’s not just about dollar signs.

  32. @Scoops: Dude, it really is not about Alan Moore, Before Watchmen, DC, etc. It’s about creators rights. A multi-million dollar company is happily screwing over a creator and the community/culture is a-okay with it. That’s the problem.

    *sigh* “This city is dying of rabies. Is the most I can do to wipe random flecks of foam from it’s mouth?”

    I guess so, David.

  33. It’s really unfortunate that any discussion about Alan Moore and Watchmen always has this element to it where people argue back and forth about fully-settled issues as though they were still up for debate. Why is it so impossible for us to get on the same page about things that are actual facts? For example, using stuff in the public domain is totally okay in an ethical sense, totally okay, and using characters not in the public domain is completely fine as long as you file the serial numbers off. This just isn’t in any dispute at all, outside of comics blog comment-threads about Alan Moore; in fact if you can make work of high quality out of public domain characters, or artfully-disguised characters not yet in the public domain, then this is not only a totally fine thing to do but actually a laudable thing to do.

    So all this smokescreen stuff about Alan Moore being a hypocrite, we really should be past it by now, and it’s kind of depressing that we’re not. Especially since because of that it still gets to be a smokescreen, covering up the creators’ rights stuff and corporate culture stuff that we should really be getting past too…past the talking about, and into the fixing of. Because the reality is that we’re not choosing this hill to make our stand on, the reality is that this is the only hill the comics industry has ever been on, or ever will be on, and we’ve actually been climbing it for decades and decades now so it shouldn’t be surprising if we want to talk about all this today? When we wanted to talk about it yesterday as well.

    The thing’s ongoing. Marvel and DC are built on the backs of artists they took financial advantage of. It’s worked out great for them, not so great for the artists. We really shouldn’t have to hack through all this undergrowth all the time, just to get to the point where it’s proven okay to question the rightness of that. Even Alan Moore isn’t rich; he’s just a working-class dude who does freelance work. A successful one, admittedly, but he doesn’t exactly make Stan Lee money, you know?

  34. You sure know how to kick up a shitstorm, Mr. Brothers.

  35. Wow, the writer of the article is an idiot…

    1.- Marvel and DC will prize properties over creators because that’s how they make most money. It’s not gonna change anytime soon. Especially not with boycotting some random limited series. Also, LOL, the characters are bigger than the creators. The only guy who comes even close to the characters in terms of fame is Stan Lee. Why the f*** would Marvel/DC prize creators (which they don’t own) over characters (which they do own)?

    2.- Nobody’s screwing Alan Moore and the fact he has the chutzpah to even compare Moore’s situation with actual honest to goodness troubled artists is a disservice to those who got screwed for real. Moore became a goddamn millionaire.

    3.- Just like Moore strip mined the past to make his stories. Also, “originality” is overrated.

  36. That hit is largely due to what Mark Millar did in the Ultimates series.

    Really? Which parts? Millar’s influence boils down to the Avengers being run by SHIELD and Widow and Hawkeye being SHIELD agents. Even if you include Bryan Hitch’s work on Ultimates, that still boils down to aesthetics. The characters are not their Ultimates versions. At all. Not even close.

  37. Why the f*** would Marvel/DC prize creators (which they don’t own) over characters (which they do own)?

    Because it’s the creators that actually make them money. Marvel can remind me it owns the IP of Spider-Man all it wants, but without some creators to make a comic, movie or what have you, no one’s giving them any money for that. As David noted earlier, there are plenty of publishers out there who make a metric fuckton more money than DC and Marvel combined without ever owning any IP.

    Nobody’s screwing Alan Moore

    I was going to keep going, but clearly it’s not worth it. You’re either a troll or a fucking idiot.

  38. @Mr. Hot-Man: What’s it like having imaginary character worship over basic human empathy?

  39. @BringTheNoise: It has to be only one or the other, not both?

  40. Somebody suggested downloading Before Watchmen illegally and seed the hell out of it. I guess that would be a way to show those corporate fat cats.

  41. There are two types of people who opine about this topic: The people who think Marvel and DC are a bunch of artist fucking assholes. And the people who are wrong.

  42. Excellent work, David. Personally I disagree slightly on the issue of Darwyn Cooke and JMS because regardless of Cooke’s talent, they are both have both intentionally attacked, mocked and denegrated Moore with regards to Watchmen. It strained the limits of my capacity for forgiveness.

    It is terribly sad to me, the lengths of cognitive dissonance that some people will perform in order to look past their own guilt and shame in ethical matters.

    Personally I am happy to look at real comics from these creators. But never “Before Watchmen.”

    “Classics.” Went to a comic store with my friend and we both noted a new edition of The PRO by Garth Ennis and Amanda Conner. After all these years the book is not only in print but thriving in new editions stands in stark contrast with Conner’s willingness to be a corporate drone in one of the single most disgusting projects known to this industry.

    But that’s all nuance. Thanks for writing this and for putting up with the hostility from the peanut gallery. You are changing this industry by documenting a strong voice of clear-headed resistance to the hateful and cynical lies of the big companies.

  43. @plok: “So all this smokescreen stuff about Alan Moore being a hypocrite, we really should be past it by now, and it’s kind of depressing that we’re not. Especially since because of that it still gets to be a smokescreen, covering up the creators’ rights stuff and corporate culture stuff that we should really be getting past too…past the talking about, and into the fixing of.”

    It’s not all smokescreen – at least not here, today. Moore’s use of other creator’s work becomes relevant because the post above specifically questions an “attempt to recapture past glories with a crop of A-list talent, instead of creating new glories.”

    Bring it up and it becomes conversation fodder, just like the person who’s asking me to explain my comment that Millar is a big part of The Avengers success. If there’s smokescreen, it’s because something happened to catch fire, not because Batman used his utility belt.

  44. @BringTheNoise: It’s the things that you said, (including aesthetics, which matter) plus Sam Jackson as Nick Fury, Thor’s sanity being questionable, the creation of the Hulk being a misguided effort to recreate the Super Soldier Serum, …

  45. @West: So what Mark Millar brought to the Avengers film are two minor plot points from other films (and note that Thor is handled very differently – in the Ultimates, it’s left vague as to what he is, in the movie he’s definitely an alien).

    Oh, and he somehow gets credit for Bryan Hitch’s artwork. Yeah, he really got shafted here.

  46. Have creators ever gotten the rights they deserve? I’ll admit Before Watchmen has some very good eye candy but Moore deserve some respect. Comic creators are very inventive and DC is a master at conning them.
    p.s-Didnt they cheat the Superman creators out of load of money?

  47. I can’t stress this enough about Before Watchmen and League of Extraordinary Gentleman:

    Before Watchmen is an unnecessary prequel to another comic, created for the sole purpose of squeezing merchandise money out of a “property” against the vocal wishes of one of the creators and the complete apathy of the other.

    League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is about the culture of the English empire and the nature of fiction, using public domaic classic lit characters, or satirical versions of ones that aren’t, to bridge the gap between the two themes. It’s commentary, the same way Watchmen was. The difference, it is huge.*

    That’s the only thing I can add to this discussion that hasn’t been said, but I think it’s important to clarify that bit for all the arguments that “Alan Moore’s doing the same with LXG!” What’s especially important to note is that DC is just pushing Before Watchmen as a way to make money off their “property” without having to give money to the creators, which is a backslide that can render whatever progress they’ve made on that front over the last couple decades null and void if it’s successful.

    *I can’t comment too much on Lost Girls (because I never read it), but it also seems to me, from interviews Moore has given, that it is doing the same by getting to the subtext of those stories and how sexuality is expressed. Again, completely different from Before Watchmen.

  48. Really disappointed at how this thread turned toxic pretty much as soon as I went to bed last night. Locking it after this comment.

    @Scoops: Thanks for posting. I really appreciated your counterpoints, even/especially if we see the situation differently. I think this thread (up to a point) is a really good example of how both sides of the issue feel. Thanks.

    @Joe H: Would you believe that it is rarely, if ever, on purpose? I figured the CA “bye marvel/dc” thing would blow up huge, but the other stuff? :crossarms:

    @Mr. Hot-Man: you’re adorbz, i wish i could adopt you

    @BringTheNoise: You are correct about the Millar/Hitch influence on Marvel’s movie universe. I haven’t seen Avengers, but I saw Cap last year, and no way does that guy turn into Millar & Hitch’s right wing caricature/fantasy.

    @Darryl Ayo: I don’t remember Cooke going on an offensive against Moore. In the interviews I’ve seen/listened to, he’s been very careful about how he approaches the subject, which I think is pretty interesting. JMS has done it several times, though.

    @West: You’re right, it’s worth discussing, but I do think the two situations are almost entirely different.


  49. […] I dunno, man. Before Watchmen is loathsome. It’s going to come out and people are going to buy it, but my advice to you, my request, is that you think about the series and what it represents, and then decide if that’s the comics industry you want to build for yourself. (David Brothers via 4th Letter) […]

  50. […] Watchmen series, hit comic book stores on Wednesday. I didn’t read it because it’s comic book poison, but thankfully I found a video which I believe gives a fair recap of what the whole Before […]

  51. […] Massive Genius is a rapper who appears in the Sopranos episode ‘A Hit is a Hit’, in which he attempts to secure overdue royalties for a deceased relative, only to be threatened with a counter-lawsuit over unauthorised sampling. Somehow I can imagine vaguely similar scenarios playing out in Alan Moore’s more mundane nightmares right about now, though of course that sort of thing could only happen to him in the minds of comic book fans. […]