Sam Logan, creator of Sam & Fuzzy (one of my favorite comic strips) posted to his Tumblr about Jim Lee‘s (publisher at DC) comments about Alan Moore‘s objections to the Before Watchmen series based on the groundbreaking series he and Dave Gibbons created. The quote in question:
“This is not a situation where we have taken things from Alan. He signed an agreement and he said, ‘I didn’t read the contract.’”
Sam did a very intelligent commentary on this — go read it! — and I just thought I’d add to it.
First, a couple of quotes from Sam’s piece:
Moore has no power, or even right, to stop others from making Watchmen prequels and sequels. He signed that away. All he can do is ask them not to — essentially as a favour[...] What surprises me is how many other creators have responded to that request, publicly, essentially by saying “tough luck, Alan, learn to read.” (Especially when many of these creators are themselves no strangers to getting screwed over by bad contracts early in their careers.)
I am a big fan of several of the Before Watchmen creators, and [...] I am sure they will almost certainly be giving Before Watchmen their highest possible efforts, as they work as hard as they can to create something worthy of the original and prove the detractors wrong. But boy, do I have trouble trying to understand why they’re doing it at all. At best, it feels like a colossally misguided waste of incredible talent; and at worst, like in the quote above, it kind of feels a bit like gloating.
This is me talkin’ again — and it does seem weird that folks are all “SUCK IT UP ALAN MOORE” — I think it’s telling that they seem to be acting like he’s trying to sue to stop it or something. Alan Moore’s just going “Look, this is kind of a dick move, I wish it weren’t happening”. Which he’s said about the movie and just about every one of his projects that’s not the original comics. (For example, he’s very outspoken about the movie of V for Vendetta, but, well, I actually quite enjoyed that movie, and thought it was a good adaptation. Moore’s work was more in-depth, of course, but that’s the very nature of movie adaptations.)
I’m not saying that Moore is necessarily right. I agree with him, but you can disagree with Moore, and that’s cool. And it should also be said that I think the Before Watchmen books could turn out to be awesome. (Darwyn Cooke is on the project, after all.) But it seems “LEARN TO READ, BEARDO” is a complaint more suited to if Moore were actually doing some ill-conceived plan to stop BW from going to press. (Ill-conceived as DC owns Watchmen and can do whatever they want with it, and Moore knows that.) As it is, he’s just saying “As the original creator, I’m not cool with this and I think this sucks.” Which I think, whether or not the output turns out to be good or not, is a fair thing to say. (Again, I liked the V movie, but I think Moore is well within his rights to have taken his name off it and warn people away from it.)
Personally, if I were a cartoonist or professional writer… I probably wouldn’t work on a Before Watchmen book. Out of respect for Moore’s wishes (though, again, no LEGAL obligation to do so) and also that, well, Watchmen stands alone. I can’t really see anything to be added to the story. (Again, I could be wrong — maybe BW will turn out to be an important addition to the canon of the original.) But if for whatever reason I had to — if DC had said “look, we need you to do this; either that or you don’t work with us again” or I really needed the money or SOMETHING — I’d do my very goddamned best to do something that could live up to Moore and maybe prove myself to him.
But still — like Sam says, though quality stuff could come out of it (I don’t know — I don’t even know if the books have hit stands yet — either way, I haven’t read them, so I don’t know if BW is terrible or super awesome or what. I’m just talking about the general idea), it seems like kind of a no-go…. it certainly SOUNDS like a cash grab and I would figure that a lot of comics fans would be turned off by that (again, no matter how good those books turn out to be). I’d wager too that most of the books sold are going to be more on the basis of the creators (i.e. Darwyn Cooke fans buying that book) than the Watchmen name… which, I suppose is a little ironic, given what it sort of says about creator rights and creator-owned materials.