MUST-READ: massive Alan Moore interview on Before Watchmen and much more (with COMMENTARY)

13 Mar

by Mike Hansen

Cover art for the 1987 U.S. (right) and U.K. (...

One of the best books you'll ever read. (Image via Wikipedia)

DUDE. A few comics sites and fan boards are already quoting from this, but it really has to be read in full.

Drop everything and CLICK HERE NOW.

Alan Moore has the balls to stick to his guns and tell the truth as he sees it about comics. A lot of fanboys and professionals (who are mostly fanboys) are going to hate him for this, but I loooooove it. Personally, I agree with a lot of what he says. Not all, but so what? He’s got my respect for telling it like he sees it. (And even if he was batshit crazy and spitting nonsense, like some clueless folks try to suggest, his work changed EVERYTHING, and that speaks for itself. Respect is due)

A few important bits, to get you to click over if you haven’t already:

…Yes, I still get a little bit of the money that I consider myself to be owed for these things.  But, it’s not really the money that’s the principle.  It’s the fact that I was lied to.  It’s the fact that the reason they offered us Watchmen was that they’d seen what I could do with their regular comics.  They could see that I was capable of moving them to a new area that comics had not ventured into before.  So, they offered us Watchmen and it worked out very, very well for them.  They were able to suddenly claim that all of their comics were “graphic novels” now–that they were seriously committed to a progressive comics medium that could produce works of art and literature.  But, that is never what they were concerned with.  It was always purely to do with commerce.

Man, the number of actual “graphic novels” that DC has published since Watchmen is probably less than 5% of its total output. It’s almost all serialized, unending bits of stories strung together. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if it’s done right.

But, I resolved that I didn’t want to work for DC Comics ever again–or their subsidiaries.  This worked fine for a number of years until I’d just signed contracts with Jim Lee‘s WildStorm Comics, at which point DC bought the whole of them–as they previously tried to buy the whole of Rob Liefeld‘s Awesome Comics, if I was part of the deal.  So, it seemed that they’d bought a whole company just to have me working for them again….

…Of course, at that point I said I wouldn’t have anything to do with DC Comics or anything connected with it ever again.  Even if I’m working for another company, I’m going to have clauses in the contract that say that if you’re bought out by DC, then my contract is null and void.

The Mindscape of Alan Moore

Alan Moore, from the documentary DVD cover. Watch it; it's great. (Image via Wikipedia)

So DC bought Wildstorm not for Jim Lee’s universe of pseudo-superhero creations, but Alan Moore’s new America’s Best Comics line? Didn’t they realize this guaranteed that Moore wouldn’t do anything to market or support it beyond writing most of it, or approve of any DC-initiated promotion? This pretty much killed the best, most original line of comics DC had since it created its superhero line in the 1930s-1940s!

…I was then offered by an increasingly frantic-sounding Dave Gibbons an unspecified but really, really large sum of money to just give my blessing for them to do these sequels and prequels.

…He told me they were planning to do these prequels and sequels, and that he had been offered something in the region of a quarter of a million dollars to oversee the project–that it would be handled by the top talent in the industry, to which I said some quite intemperate things.  I said that, as far as Watchmen was concerned, I didn’t really think that there was any talent in the mainstream comics industry.  If there had have been, they presumably, sometime over the past 20 or 25 years, would have perhaps come up with something that was as good as Watchmen–or as notable or as memorable–after they’d already been shown how to do it.

There’s no way that DC can possibly spin the idea that the Before Watchmen project has any sort of worthy artistic aspirations. It’s a pure money-grab. And it’s not the first time DC has done this: remember Kingdom Come, the fantastic graphic novel by Mark Waid and Alex Ross about a DC superhero war? Sure you do. It’s a great superhero story by two great creators. Now, how many of you remember The Kingdom, the sequel project by Waid and a bunch of top superhero artists (Frank Quitely, Mike Zeck, Jerry Ordway, and a few others)? Yyyyeahhh. Despite throwing a bunch of talent at a spinoff, DC couldn’t come up with something anywhere near as memorable (or good) as the original. What are the odds that history’s going to repeat itself?

When I originally said that I would not be giving my permission to a raft of prequels, DC immediately announced that they were going to do an exciting relaunch to all of their classic characters–which, I suppose, was their “plan B.” They were being pressured, presumably by Warner Bros., to produce something to justify their existence.  The Watchmen thing didn’t look like it was going to work, so they attempted to do something radical and new with their existing characters–like, change their costumes a little bit and start all the numbering from one.  I guess that “plan B” can’t have worked out that well–or at least, not as well as they were hoping.  So, it’s back–reluctantly, I suspect–to “plan A.”

If DC had been working on a plan to do Watchmen spinoffs for years, it’s certainly possible that the “New 52” reboot was a rushed decision. The fact that SO MANY of the new titles have had creative and directional shifts already, or been cancelled, suggests to me that despite being a massive short-term sales hit, DC’s long-term projections for the New 52 might not be so rosy anymore. Looking at what little reader-poll info has been released, I think it’s safe to say that DC is happy to have a lot of lapsed readers return to comics, but isn’t so happy about how few younger and female readers jumped on board.

You see, part of the problem with all this–and the reason why Watchmen was such an extraordinary book during its time–was that it was constructed upon literary lines.  It had a beginning, it had a middle, and it had an end.  It wasn’t constructed as an endless soap opera that would run until everybody ran out of interest in it.  It was deliberately meant to show what comics could do if you applied some of those quite ordinary literary values to them…

…It was something that stood on its own and it had the integrity of a literary work.  What they’ve decided now is, “So, let’s change it to a regular comic that can run indefinitely and have spin-offs.” and “Let’s make it as unexceptional as possible.”  Like I say, they’re doing this because they haven’t got any other choices left, evidently.

“Let’s make Comics nothing but bad Hollywood remakes! Who needs originality? Let’s train our readership to expect rehashed, retread, cover-band karaoke do-overs! Originality is too risky, especially with those pesky creators wanting a cut of their creations. Who needs that?”

As for the readers, I have to say that if you are a reader that just wanted your favorite characters on tap forever, and never cared about the creators, then actually you’re probably not the kind of reader that I was looking for.

…The kind of readers who are prepared to turn a blind eye when the people who create their favorite reading material, their favorite characters, are marginalized or put to the wall–that’s not the kind of readers I want.  So, even if it means a huge drop in sales upon my other work, I would prefer it that way…

…And THAT’S the part that’s really going to piss off the fanboys. Good. Maybe, instead of getting mad at Alan Moore for pointing out that comics are created by human beings – ones that have historically been treated unfairly – they’ll appreciate original works of art more. Sometimes it seems like we’re living in an age of mindless consumerism, but I think there are a lot more people who are more aware of the world around them than ever before. The Arab Spring and Occupy movements are just the beginning of a new way that more and more people are going to see the world. And that’s eventually going to change the world.

1987 test logo.

Fighting for Merchandising, Intellectual-Property Exploitation, and the American Way! (Image via Wikipedia)

And, to say this is just what happens in comics–that this is just the tradition in comics–characters get passed from one creator to another and that’s just how it is–why is it like that?  And, where did these characters come from in the first place?  Did they all spring from the brow of Zeus, fully-formed?  Or, was there somebody who created them at some point?  Was there a sort of Jerry Robinson or Bill Finger?  Or, was there a Siegel and Shuster?  Or a Martin Nodell or a Gardner Fox who got robbed?  And then, of course the attitude–and I probably shared in this when I first started working for American comics–the attitude now is that it’s just toys in the toy box, isn’t it?  You get to play with your favorite toys from the DC or Marvel toy box.  Yeah, I don’t want to do that anymore.  Those toys were pried out of the fingers of dead men, and were pried from their families and their children.  That’s just wrong.

Everybody in the industry knows it’s wrong and for some reason, nobody says anything about it.

Fortunately, the comics world is much bigger than DC or Marvel now. Sure, I enjoy some of their output (though I never pay full price for it), but the really exciting stuff for me is mostly coming from creator-controlled work from other publishers, or from the realm of children’s books. DC and Marvel are capable of publishing exciting, original work, but they keep putting their marketing dollars behind the same big titles, so the cool stuff rarely has a chance these days. Oh, well: if DC and Marvel want to keep trying to train their audiences to buy only their superhero “universes,” regardless of quality, that’s their choice. Me, I’ll keep following the good writers and artists wherever their talent takes them.

All quotations above:

From an interview of Alan Moore by Kurt Amacker, published by Seraphemera Books

One Response to “MUST-READ: massive Alan Moore interview on Before Watchmen and much more (with COMMENTARY)”


  1. Before Watchmen’s non-cover on Previews « All Day Comics - March 16, 2012

    […] MUST-READ: massive Alan Moore interview on Before Watchmen and much more (with COMMENTARY) ( […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: