‘Beyond Watchmen': Don’t Call It A Cash Grab.

There are certain things in the world nobody asked for, nobody wanted and nobody needed.

Like The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.  Like The Godfather III.   Like every Alien movie that wasn’t directed by Ridley Scott or James Cameron.  Like every Terminator sequel that wasn’t directed by James Cameron.

Like New Coke.  Like Sarah Palin as vice president.  Like a Hummer.  Like NBC’s entire fall season.

Like Before Watchmen.  DC Comics announced this week they will publish a limited series of comics based upon the Watchmen 25 years after the fact.

Before Watchmen?  There was no before Watchmen and there was no after Watchmen.  There is only WatchmenAlan Moore wrote it and Dave Gibbons drew it and they told the story in 12 issues and that was it.

Sure DC has about the same principle as a pimp with a stable of child prostitutes, but they aren’t trying to sell Before Watchmen to geezers like me.  They’re going after the kids who saw Watchmen the movie and never finished reading Watchmen the graphic novel.

Alan Moore: the creator who got left out in the cold

This act of money-grubbing douchery on DC’s part should come as no surprise.  Two years ago they went to Moore and offered to return he rights to Watchmen .  There were a few conditions though.

“They offered me the rights to Watchmen back, if I would agree to some dopey prequels and sequels,” Moore said in an interview with Wired,  “So I just told them that if they said that 10 years ago, when I asked them for that, then yeah it might have worked. But these days I don’t want Watchmen back. Certainly, I don’t want it back under those kinds of terms.”

After Moore blew them off, DC Comics co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee said, “Watchmen is the most celebrated graphic novel of all time. Rest assured, DC Comics would only revisit these iconic characters if the creative vision of any proposed new stories matched the quality set by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons nearly 25 years ago, and our first discussion on any of this would naturally be with the creators themselves.”

Then two years later DC proceeded with their dopey prequels idea and if they sell well, can the dopey sequels be far behind?  Ready for After Watchmen?

Though Zack Snyder’s Watchmen film underwhelmed and underperformed, it did well enough for some suit at Warner Brothers to greenlight the prequels and build up interest in the characters for another movie.  Warner has had no luck producing comic book movies without Batman or Superman in it.  Personally, I blame all the audiences that passed on Hellblazer, Jonah Hex and Green Lantern in favor of something else (like a good movie).

This isn’t necessary but then The Sting II without Newman and Redford and Butch and Sundance: The Early Years without Newman and Redford wasn’t necessary either.  There’s still a version of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes without Harold Melvin (who’s dead) or Teddy Pendergrass (who’s dead) or any of the other original Blue Notes,

It’s about dollar, dollar bill, y’all.  Money talks and everything else is walkin’.  Before Watchmen is a bad, bad idea whose time has come.  Alan Moore can’t stop it.   DC knows they can’t improve on the original, but make some more money from it?  That, they are willing to do.

I get it that DC has every right to use (or exploit) characters they own and they own Watchmen, not the guys who created them.   This isn’t about art, this is about commerce.  DC Comics is in the business of making money.  They don’t give their comics away for free.

Everything I needed to know about Watchmen I learned in Watchmen.   That was essential.  This is unnecessary.   What Moore and Gibbons did they did out of inspiration and love.  What  DC is doing is because they are part of a corporation and corporations are inspired by love of money.  Corporations don’t make anything original.  They make prequels, sequels, remakes, relaunches, reboots and anything else that’s been done before because it they bought it once, they might buy it again.

Before Watchmen could be good.  It might be great.  I’ll never know.   I am numb to the latest , greatest stunt the comic book corporate properties belch out.

Do not want.  Will not buy.

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4 responses

  1. Obviously you’re taking a hard line on this idea. On the other hand there are NUMEROUS examples of comic characters who have continued to have adventures long after their creators have moved on. The Watchmen are re-imagined versions of Charlton characters (Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, The Question, Peacemaker, etc.) so it wasn’t like Moore & Gibbons were creating these characters from nothing. 25 years seems like a pretty long time to let these characters alone. Also, Moore is noted not only for his work on Watchmen, but from work he did with Superman (For The Man Who Has Everything and Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?) and Batman (The Killing Joke) – characters that were created LONG before Moore got into the business and are among the most noted works featuring those characters. Or look at his work with Image comics on Supreme where he did numerous stories based upon the Silver-age version of Superman. Maybe he shouldn’t have ever written those stories since he didn’t seem to think that the original creations couldn’t be expanded on or re-imagined?

    Also it’s apparent that Moore doesn’t have the same regard for characters created by others – his much acclaimed “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” features Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, the Invisible Man as well as other characters created by other people. Why not feel outrage that these “classic” characters are being used in a manner that their original creators never intended?

    The fact is DC has every right to do another Watchmen story and if Gibbons and Moore feel that they don’t want to be a part of it, that’s their choice. Perhaps the prequel stories will be more like Godfather III or the Matrix sequels – but Aliens was a sequel to Alien and most people seem to like it although it was done by a different director. Characters like Perry Mason, James Bond and Jason Bourne have continued to have new adventures long after their creators stopped writing stories.

    The Watchmen are property – DC owns ‘em. If they want to produce new material and after finding out that neither Moore or Gibbons want to work on a new story then they have no obligation to them not do anything with this property. That’s the way work-for-hire works and while the new series may not measure up to the legendary status of the original, there’s nothing wrong with someone else trying to touch these characters again.

    Just my point of view.

    1. Fine. Here’s mine.

      In the war between art and commerce, I see both sides of the conflict. Ultimately though I’m down with the artist and this is DC Comics telling Moore and Gibbons, “Fuck you. The Watchmen belong to us and if we want to do Rorschach vs. Lobo, we will fucking well DO IT and you will have to take a big old suck on that.”

      Watchmen helped make DC’s reputation. It wasn’t just another damn comic book. It was literature. It was rich, subtle, nuanced and complex. And it was great. There’s no need for a “Before Watchmen.”

      Just because someone owns something doesn’t mean they are right to do as they damn well please and keep whoring it out to make another goddamn dollar. Moore and Gibbons told the story they wanted to tell and it had a beginning, a middle and an end. The image of Dr. Manhattan telling Ozymandias, “Nothing ever ends” has been repeated several times in various essays about Before Watchmen. This story has an ending and I am done with Watchmen just as much as their creators are.

      Don’t try to flip the script on Moore by saying, “Well, what about his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Supreme?” What ABOUT it? Stevie Wonder released tons of awful albums filled up with him doing cover versions of other people’s hits. Finally, he decided he’d write all his own songs and make his own hits. Plus, the creators of Mr. Hyde, the Invisible Man, Captain Nemo and the rest are DEAD. Moore and Gibbons are still very much alive and they don’t want to tell any more Watchmen stories. That lines up nicely with my desire not to read any more Watchmen stories.

      Your “the company owns the property” mindset is the same bullshit that allowed Marvel to swindle Jack Kirby and DC to do likewise to Shuster and Siegel. Work-for-hire is an odious concept and as someone who has been screwed out of his own work more than once your argument that “there’s nothing wrong with someone else trying to touch these characters again” is totally lost on me. You might as well be speaking in tongues.

      There IS something wrong with this. It’s a bad touch and while you are free to shell out the dough to buy these lame and unnecessary comic books, I exercise my right not to read them, dog them out and wash my hands of having anything to do with this greedy cluster fuck. DC Comics are pimps and every last one of the writers and artists involved in this garbage are whores. Fuck them all.

      As Devin Faraci put it in his column:

      “[T]hey were stolen from me — knowingly stolen from me,” Moore told the New York Times in 2006, on the eve of the release of the V For Vendetta movie. He says this is why he quit working for DC Comics in any capacity. “I said, ‘Fair enough,’ ” he recalls. ” ‘You have managed to successfully swindle me, and so I will never work for you again.’”

      To me Before Watchmen, the upcoming series of prequels to Moore and Gibbons’ seminal masterwork, isn’t just an artistically bankrupt project, it’s morally bankrupt. DC exhuming these characters is just the final fuck you in a decades-long attempt to screw over Moore – who, to be fair, has assisted by renouncing whatever money is due to him from things like this. But the issue isn’t simply money, it’s also the artist’s right to NOT make money, to not have their creation further exploited. In 2010 DC offered Moore a deal with the devil – they would give him the rights back, but he would have to agree to (and presumably endorse) prequels and sequels. You can have your baby, they said, as long as you agree to have it work in this brothel.

      It isn’t like Moore was consistently close-minded about mining Watchmen. In the late 80s he approved and contributed to a role playing game set in the Watchmen world, supplying background information that helped flesh out the characters and history of the universe. I feel like Moore played ball, and that he’s well within his rights to ask that the ball no longer be played with.

      This is a continuation of the kind of exploitation upon which the modern superhero comic book market was built. I hope that the creators working today for DC and Marvel have secured their shit in an ironclad way. And I can tell you that stories like this are why the mainstream superhero universes have such a paucity of interesting new characters – why would you give Marvel or DC your best original work when they’re simply going to exploit it forever and leave you out?

      Just my point of view.

  2. Well I guess there’s nothing more that I can say regarding this matter. You seem extremely convinced (judging from the language you’re using) that DC has nothing worthwhile in producing additional material on the Watchmen. Perhaps the opinion of the guys from Spill.com might be worth considering – they discuss the announcement on the latest edition of LEOG (Friday, Feb. 3rd – about 30 minutes in…). You seem to think that because DC hired Moore and Gibbons to write and draw the story of the Watchmen they’ve given them permission to decide if these characters are ever used again. Moore was offered the rights to the Watchmen, he turned DC down because he didn’t like their terms. Fine – his choice. Moore & Gibbons don’t want to work on a Watchmen sequel, prequel, whatever. Fine – their choice. But DC owns the characters and can do damn well what they want with it.

    Moore may choose to turn down money based upon his past work and have his name taken off of movie adaptions but he’s just as much of a hypocrite as the evil corporation for taking credit for other people’s work. Plus who’s he paying for the use of previously created ideas and concepts. He didn’t create the characters in the Watchmen from scratch, nor for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Supreme. If he fills like he was ripped off by DC then he should never work for them again. But he needs to get off his high horse when it comes to how his “creations” are used.

    He took a job with DC and created a masterpeice – but he didn’t get a deal that worked out like he wanted. OK – fine – from now on let his only produce creator-owned properties and distribute them as he sees fit. But Watchmen was done for DC and they get to decide if the story continues. You don’t have to buy it – I may not – but there’s nothing wrong with DC taking their property and doing what they want with it. If after 25 years they want to revisit the Watchmen universe then they’re free to do it. The product may be excellent or worthless but I don’t agree that just because you did something great when you worked for someone else you now own the work.

    1. This isn’t going to be yet another Paul Hardcastle serve-and-volley series of call and responses. It’s obvious to me we are only repeating the conversation we already had on the phone and you’re not changing my mind and I’m not changing yours.

      However, I can’t let stand your bullshit argument that Alan Moore pretty much has nothing to complain about because “he’s just as much of a hypocrite as the evil corporation for taking credit for other people’s work. Plus who’s he paying for the use of previously created ideas and concepts. He didn’t create the characters in the Watchmen from scratch, nor for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Supreme.”

      I doubt Moore has exploited and screwed over creators to the degree DC, the subsidary of “the evil corporation” has, but let’s leave that absurdity aside for now. Rather than regurgitate my own arguments again, I’ll let Tom Bondurant from Comic Book Resources’ Robot 6 column make the case instead:

      To be clear, I understand DC wanting to make money off its intellectual property. A while ago I argued that one purpose of the current Shade miniseries is to fill another slot on bookshelves next to the rest of James Robinson’s Starman collections. Starman was one of the rare series where one writer introduced a character (Jack Knight) and took him through a series of adventures, until that character reached the natural endpoint of his life’s particular phase. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman preceded it, and Garth Ennis’ Hitman followed. (Working with writers David Goyer and Geoff Johns, Robinson tied Starman into the JSA revival as well.)

      Robinson hasn’t returned to the character of Jack Knight since Starman ended, although he used a few Starman characters in his Justice League work (and I’m pretty sure one of the supporting cast showed up in the year-long Trinity miniseries, with which Robinson was not involved) — but more to the point, no new creative team has explored what Jack, or Sandman’s Morpheus, or Hitman’s Tommy Monaghan, has done since their various series ended. There is a firewall around these characters, if not their unique milieux, apparently reinforced only by friendly agreement. When there are cracks — when Morpheus’ successor Daniel showed up in Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s JLA, or when Paul Cornell and Pete Woods had Sandman’s Death meet Lex Luthor in Action Comics — it’s a big deal. I’d even go so far as to say that the old Multiverse was an in-story manifestation of such firewalls: all those Golden Age stories shunted to Earth-Two pretty much as-is, with the same going for the Fawcett (i.e., Marvel Family) characters on Earth-S, and yes, the Charlton characters on Earth-Four.

      Indeed, at the risk of being obvious, Watchmen exists in its present form because DC didn’t want to let Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons put the Charlton characters themselves through the wringer. Thus, over the past twenty-five years, Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Nightshade, Peter Cannon, and the Question have each had their own ongoing series, and each has enjoyed various degrees of success in the context of the larger DC superhero line. Ironically, there’s a distinct Doctor Manhattan influence in both the Captain Adam of Final Crisis and the New-52′s Cap, and the Question’s appearances on “Justice League Unlimited” recast the character as more conspiracy-minded, a la Rorschach. Of course, the Question and Blue Beetle who came over from Charlton have since died, and the New-52 setup doesn’t seem to leave much room for either to return.

      The larger issue, though, is the extent to which these characters can be allowed to rest. J. Michael Straczynski, who is writing the Doctor Manhattan and Nite-Owl miniseries, told CBR

      [a] lot of folks feel that these characters shouldn’t be touched by anyone other than Alan, and while that’s absolutely understandable on an emotional level, it’s deeply flawed on a logical level. Based on durability and recognition, one could make the argument that Superman is the greatest comics character ever created. But neither Alan nor anyone else has ever suggested that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should ever be allowed to write Superman. Alan didn’t pass on being brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein, and he did a terrific job. He didn’t say “No, no, I can’t, that’s Len’s character.” Nor should he have.

      Mr. Straczynski’s response goes to the heart of work-for-hire comics; namely, that DC Comics owns (part of) Superman, Swamp Thing, and Watchmen, and as a practical matter can dictate who writes and draws the comics featuring them. Put bluntly, Alan Moore knew what he was getting into when he took on Watchmen, because it was the same situation he entered into with Swamp Thing. In fact, on a conceptual level there is probably not much difference between Before Watchmen and the mileage Geoff Johns has gotten out of “Tygers,” Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s Green Lantern Corps short story.

      The real difference lies in the nature of the stories themselves. Superman and Swamp Thing were created to be ongoing characters with no definite endpoint, but Watchmen, Robinson’s Starman, Ennis’ Hitman, and Gaiman’s Sandman were all finite series. We can argue about whether creative teams other than Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster or Len Wein and Berni Wrightson have “done right by” Superman or Swamp Thing, but when you have a singular vision determining virtually every aspect of a particular series from beginning to end, it becomes a lot harder to disassociate that vision from that series. For example, Straczynski himself is associated pretty strongly with “Babylon 5,” the TV series he created and produced, so much so that any subsequent “B5″ projects would no doubt seek his blessing, especially if the series were considered to have told a story complete unto itself.

      To be sure, more “Babylon 5″ might well receive and/or deserve those blessings, just as the Before Watchmen books might be worthwhile on their own merits. Certainly none of the professionals involved sets out to make bad comics, and certainly none of them will want to bring anything less than their best. Still, they’re in an unenviable situation, trying to do work which honors the original while still being original enough to justify its own existence. This is nothing new for work-for-hire comics, but the degree of difficulty is much higher.

      And the thing is, DC does not need more Watchmen in the same way that it needs to keep publishing Batman, Superman, and Swamp Thing comics. As long as there is a DC Comics, there will be more Batman and Superman books, with dozens more creative teams looking to recapture what they first loved about those characters. Making sure those characters endure is fundamental to DC’s business model, and if some good comics come out of it, that’s just gravy. Accordingly, DC has no interest in producing the last Superman story, whether it’s “Doomsday!” or “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?” As we saw last summer, DC doesn’t do endings, it does relaunches.

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

      Bottom line, Mike. I don’t HAVE to read Before Watchmen and I’ve made it pretty clear I’m not going to. Unlike the guy at Robot 6, I don’t even care if the comics are good. That they even exist offends me and if I want to check out something that offends me even though there are talented people attached to it, I’ll rent Caligula again.

      You can do whatever you please. It pleases me to have nothing to do with any of this and say no more about it

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