Before Watchmen Is Comic Book Poison

June 5th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

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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Unsightly Paneling

July 29th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I’m generally of the opinion that the world would be much better if I ran it.  (What?  Like you’re not?)  This principle applies to panels, and all of the things said by all of the people on them.

It applied especially to the Sunday Conversation With Dan Didio panel at Comic-Con.  I generally like these panels very much because they leave aside the usual slideshow of covers that we will be seeing in eight months to two years and the painfully awkward questions.  Instead, they’re a bunch of people talking about comics.  Dan Didio generally does a great job of moderating the responses from the audience, and a panel of comics professionals cuts in with funny commentary.  It’s a really enjoyable panel.

One of the questions this year was, “What was a big ‘wow’ moment you’ve read in comics?”  That was where the panel spiralled down from something fun into the realms of what I can only describe as extreme unacceptability.  Every single reply was “When ____ got killed.”  Every one.

People!  Stop encouraging them!  We just barely got them to stop playing darts with the members of Young Justice!  Maybe it’s a question of when you started reading comics, but to me, standard character death that comes with every single big event is the most predictable and un-‘wow’ thing in the world.  You can practically set your watch by it.  How were any of those people shocked?

But what’s more, one of the other questions was, “What do you like to read in comics?”  My answer?  Fun.  A lot of it.  I want to have a blast when I’m reading.  I want the characters to have a blast.  I want the comic I’m reading to be so much fun that if you gave the reader the option of falling through the paper and joining the characters, they would do it in a heartbeat.

I don’t know if the panel was Bizarro World or if I’m truly that alone in preferring comics in which a hero’s death isn’t the most memorable event.  Aren’t there so many better things to remember?  And if there aren’t, shouldn’t there be?

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McDuffie fired off JLA

May 28th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Nope, it was my own doing. I was fired when “Lying in the Gutters” ran a compilation of two years or so of my answers to fans’ questions on the DC Comics discussion boards. I’m told my removal had nothing to with either the quality of my work or the level of sales, rather with my revelation of behind-the-scenes creative discussions.

I have to say I’m a bit disappointed, because next summer was planned to feature a JLA-driven crossover, where my book’s story line would have been the driving force. I’m distressed by where I left Black Canary, as my intention was to use the current subplot to strengthen her character and relationships with the new membership, and instead I’m leaving her at the bottom of a hole I’d intended to rebuild her from. I was also just about to get a regular artist for the first time since I’ve been on the book, which would have been nice. That said, I’m sure DC’s going to put together a creative team that will generate major excitement around JLA, which is as it should be.

As for me, I’m still busy story-editing both Ben 10: Alien Force (just nominated for 3 Emmys!) and the upcoming new Ben 10 series “Ben 10: Evolutions.” As far as comic-related stuff, the all-new “Milestone Forever,” is still on track for late this year/early next year, and the Milestone trade paperback program is in full swing, with Static Shock, Icon and Hardware volumes already on the way. I’ve also recently completed a console video game script that I can’t talk about yet, but that will be of interest to anyone reading this thread. I’m currently writing a Direct-To-Video animated feature for Warner Animation, the second of two I’ve taken on this year. Again, I can’t say what they are until they’re officially announced, but they’re likely of interest to superhero fans, and one of them I can’t help looking at as what-could-have-been. You’ll see what I mean.

From McDuffie’s boards, via the homey Uzumeri.

And I mean, I’m not surprised. It’s sad, but I’m very glad to see that McDuffie has plenty of stuff lined up. I wish DC hadn’t hamstrung him right out of the gates, but that’s what happens with top-down editing. I said it in ’07 and it’s still true: DC screwed up. They screwed up hard.

McDuffie show-ran Justice League Unlimited and he’s running Ben10. Those cartoons are rolling in dough. The Static Shock cartoon had better ratings than Pokemon. Why bring him in and then handcuff him? He gave Tom Brevoort gold on Fantastic Four. Fun, all ages comics that had plenty of appeal for everyone.

To put him on JLA, and then tell him “Write these stories,” is pathetic. McDuffie and the JLA is a no-brainer. Everyone loved JLU. That’s why they put him on the book. It’s so simple a child could come up with it. The fact that he had to address the status of the book in public basically means that he was getting no traction behind the scenes, doesn’t it? Doesn’t that sound like some kind of mismanagement?

Firing McDuffie when you still employ artists who can barely draw anything approaching acceptable comics, such as Ed Benes or Tony Daniel, is pathetic. Try again.

DC Comics, and Dan Didio, lost. End of story.

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