The controversy rises from the feeling that the original story was complete, and that a sequel or prequel doesn't honor the impact it had on the industry 25 years ago.
Others emphasize that the characters and concepts are owned by DC — and not the creators — so the company should take advantage of the properties.
At the heart of the controversy is, in some ways, the very vocal wish of the original story's writer that it be left alone. "I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago...I don’t want money,” Moore said. “What I want is for this not to happen. As far as I know, there weren’t that many prequels or sequels to Moby Dick."And while artist Dave Gibbons' statement was released this morning in apparent support of the Before Watchmen project, even he mentions that feeling of Watchmen being "complete"... “The original series of Watchmen is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell," Gibbons said. "However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire."
To gauge industry reaction to the news about the prequel, Newsarama contacted a variety of creators. While some refused to go on the record because they feel uncomfortable commenting on the work of their peers (especially those who thought it was a "stupid idea"), several responded to our request to answer the following question:
Q: The creators of Watchmen have made it clear that they believed their story was complete, yet the comic's collection has sold so well that the characters and concepts have marketability. How do you feel about the decision, almost 25 years later, to create prequels to Watchmen?Erik Larsen
It's hardly a surprise, is it? I mean — we knew this was in the works. It's a shame they wouldn't respect Alan Moore's wishes but what do you expect? Corporations are going to exploit their IPs — that's what they do. If you thought DC was going to treat Alan Moore any different from all of the other creators they've screwed over the years — surprise, motherf*&kers!
It surprises me that DC would go forward with this, though clearly they have a legal clearance to do so. While I understand the desire to do more Watchmen stories, and am impressed with the talent listed, I feel like the property would be better left alone.
As a groundbreaking series, each issue was a perfectly constructed chapter, done with loving care by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. As someone who shares equity in various DC owned characters, I have always been frustrated to not have any kind of control over the handling of these heroes, but that's the thorny side to not actually owning the characters. DC is in business to make money, and there is clearly a fan interest in the Watchmen universe.Denny O'Neil My first reaction is, bad idea. It's hard for me to guess how the original could be improved on — it's still our high water mark — and if you aren't going to better it, or at least equal it, why bother? The obvious answer is: profit. And please don't think I've used that word with a sneer. Most of the good stuff has been done for profit; very little of it would exist without a profit motive. I can only hope that the new team can conjure up a recipe that does honor to the original without attempting to clone it. I also hope that it's a damn good story. Ron Marz
I am ... conflicted.The creator in me isn't especially comfortable seeing Moore and Gibbons' creations being used in a way that at least one of them doesn't want to happen. But the realist in me understands that Watchmen is ultimately controlled by a corporation. Corporations exist to make money, and these books will most assuredly make money. Something like this was almost inevitable. Honestly, it's such a gray area to me that I can't give you a definitive answer. Yes, Watchmen is a masterpiece created by Alan and Dave. But the characters are also derivative of the Charlton characters on which they were based. If those Charlton characters had never existed, "Watchmen" would at the very least be quite a different project. People who are upset about the exploitation of the Watchmen characters might as well be upset at the ongoing exploitation of Batman and Superman ... or Moore's own use of public-domain literary characters in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (not mention the sly use of non-public domain characters, like James Bond, in that project). Ultimately, the "should they or shouldn't they" question is only going to be answered when we have these books in our hands. What really matters is ... are they any good? The talent roster is loaded with quality creators. Now, to be honest, I'd rather see these creators and those resources go toward creating something brand new. But in the comfort-food market of American comics, that's not terribly realistic. I suspect we'll get some pretty damn good books here. Will they be as good as the original Watchmen? No, they won't. But if that's the benchmark for whether a project should be done or not, we wouldn't print much of anything, would we?
I'm conflicted because while I feel Alan Moore or any creator's wishes concerning their own property should be paramount to any publisher, I will say a few of the teams on the new Watchmen titles are great choices. Amanda Conner on a Watchmen book — sign me up.
Do I think the Watchmen property needed further exploration with prequels? Absolutely not, and in my opinion, it's not necessarily an homage but a smart business decision. It's something I think will certainly help bring more attention and traffic to comic book stores, which is a good thing for me personally, so I have many differing feelings about it. Maybe they can bring back Preacher...please?
Steve NilesDC can do what they want because they own it. Sadly, despite creator wishes. It's a lesson to be learned. Had that been a creator-owned property this never would have happened, but it has and that is that. Essentially, the creators are being kicked aside. I think Moore learned from this and we won't see the same thing happen to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Now, do I need more info on The Nite Owl? No, but in the hands of a great creator, you never know. I'll wait and see. I'm a little tired of the "Chicken Little" syndrome in comics. Everybody freaks out before anything is even done. I'll wait and see on the actual books.
I'm reminded of the story of Gene Roddenberry seeing a final cut of Star Trek VI before he died, and, livid, demanding 30 minutes of changes through his lawyer. Sometimes the creator doesn't always know best. We joke around about Watchmen Babies and so on and so forth, but Moore and Gibbons didn't have to sign the deal when they signed it. With the benefit of hindsight, had they walked away and self-published Watchmen in the proto-indie comics marketplace of 1986-1987, would it have been nearly as successful? Of course not.
I wish the new creators the best luck in making these prequels as great as they can possibly be. Me, I'm sticking to creating my own stuff at the moment, but I'm no hypocrite: if DC or Marvel called me, I'd say yes.Gerry ConwayFrom an aesthetic and ethical point of view, I think it's a weak move. But I'm reminded of a conversation I had with the late John Verpoorten forty-odd years ago when I was an irrepressible, self-important young snot (as opposed to today, when I'm an irrepressible, self-important old fart). John, who was head of Marvel Production at the time, was pressuring me to deliver my latest script on time (the nerve of the man) and in a burst of self-righteous wrath, I told him he was putting business needs above aesthetic principles. John laughed, and said something that's stayed with me ever since: "If you're going to talk aesthetics, Gerry, we can justify publishing one, maybe two comics a month… at most. Grow up, kid."
Wise words.Eric Stephenson
Everyone has known this was coming for a while, but that doesn't make the news of DC's Before Watchmen comics any less disgusting.
There are some really talented people involved in these books: Darwyn Cooke is one of my all-time favorite storytellers; Amanda Conner, Adam Hughes and J.G. Jones are artists whose work I've admired for years; Brian Azzarello's a wonderful writer and his 100 Bullets is a genuine classic. Len Wein? He co-created Swamp Thing and a good chunk of the X- Men most people know and love. (Namely Wolverine, Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler.)
I would rather see any of them do something new than engage in the kind of hard graft DC has conscripted them for with these books. Or as Alan Moore's daughter Leah put it on Twitter:
Why not do NEW ogn's (sic) from the Before Watchmen creators, or better yet fresh talent. Use the budget to find the *next* watchmen instead?
Alan Moore gets a lot of stick from various quarters for having principals. Certain people like to couch that in different, less flattering terms – he's crazy, he's lost it, he's an asshole – but at the end of the day, he's making a stand based on what he thinks is fair and right. Whether you agree with his position or not, I have to think you'd be able to admire his tenacity. It would have been far easier for him, at any point, to simply accept the DC/Warner Bros. agenda and just pocket the cash.
In the final estimation, it's really just more of the same. This is what they do. I'm sure it will be perfectly serviceable fan fiction. (from Eric's blog with permission)
From a strictly business standpoint, it probably looks to the executive types like it makes perfect sense. The original Watchmen has had its run as toys and movies and such, so the only way remaining to "add value" to the franchise is to produce new material.
From a creative standpoint, the idea is dead on arrival. In the long term, they really should put this kind of effort into creating new properties. But in the atmosphere of endless re-boots, re-makes, prequels and sequels this is what we can expect from entertainment conglomerates.
Jamal IgleWell, DC is going to do what they want to do. They're a corporation and it's their job to exploit a property until you've squeezed it dry. I'm sure they'll be good, looking at the talent involved; I'm sure they'll be readable. Do I think it's a good idea? Absolutely not.
One of the problems I have with the way we do things in this business is that there are no finite stories. I believe wholeheartedly that Watchman stands alone as a singular piece. It has a defined beginning middle and end, its story has been told. I wasn't clamoring for the further adventures of Rorschach or about what happened to Silk Spectre after she donned her tights. Everything I need to know about Laurie Juspeczyk can be found in the 12 issues of Watchmen.
That being said... I won't be reading them. I honestly have no interest.
I don't have any interest in reading sequels, prequels or anything else related to Watchmen per se. However there are some heavy-duty talents involved, and I'll find it hard to resist that Darwyn Cooke Minutemen.This whole thing has an air of inevitability about it. There's too much money involved for DC not to get around to it eventually. Profit has to be the bottom line for a mainstream publisher. I guess creators now have more opportunities than they did in the 1980's, to take their books to a publisher who will give them control over their work if that's what they want, and that's what Alan Moore is doing these days. I think his comment referring to Moby Dick is more a reflection on the changing values of recent times. If Herman Melville were still around I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him banging out Moby Dick - Before Ahab.
When you’re talking about “creators,” I suspect you’re mostly talking about Alan Moore. David Gibbons’ judicious phrasing about the endeavor, I think, expresses a positive mindset in seeing the work as a tribute, an homage, especially when one considers that Watchmen began its creative life as an updating of the Charlton characters; if it had remained that, then Moore would have had nothing to say about ownership to begin with, “draconian” contracts or no.I think Moore is on more slippery grounds, asserting that these prequels are DC's simply depending upon 25 year old ideas of his, implying that it’s a sign of some sort of creative bankruptcy. Yes, Moore — whom I’ve never had the honor of meeting — is correct that there is no sequel to “Moby Dick.” But Moore’s position is odd considering he took characters created by Jules Verne and Bram Stoker and turned them into superheroes, and transformed beloved literary heroines into subjects of erotica. Does public domain automatically make one morally superior in recycling the iconic characters created by authors who are no longer around to voice their protests? Considering his Moby Dick comparison, apparently he doesn’t think so. Does the fact that it's a corporation taking the initiative rather than a single individual automatically make the endeavor inferior? That’s a hard argument to make considering that a corporate entity desiring to utilize its properties led to “Watchmen” in the first place. The fact that Moore is so vehemently opposed to the other authors working upon his characters — characters that are pastiches of Charlton Comics creators — might tell you something about how L. Frank Baum would likely have reacted to Moore's handling of Dorothy. And if that's the case, people who stridently protest Watchmen prequels might want to reconsider the moral validity of their ire. To me, DC's announcement simply means that Alan Moore's work has reached the iconic status of such characters as Superman and Swamp Thing, about both of whom Moore has graced us with some of the most compelling and memorable stories ever told. Let us hope that the storytelling bar that Moore has set in his own work on other people's creations will be met — and perhaps even exceeded — by those who are now following his lead.
I can certainly understand why DC wants to do it. It's not a choice I would have made, but that may be just one more reason I shouldn't run a major comic book company.
You're asking me this before I've seen the announcement, so I don't know what the prequels are or who's doing them, but good luck to everyone involved. If they get good comics out of it, good comics are good comics, even if they're not stuff I'm drawn to.
In the end, Watchmen is what it is, and it's there on the shelf and nothing's going to change that. So if people like the spinoffs, great, and if they don't like the idea, they've still got the original, as is.
For my part, I'd rather try to create or get others to create the next project that'll have that kind of lasting impact, rather than try to extend this one, but like I said, that's just one more reason I don't have that job.
“I don’t want money,” Alan said. “What I want is for this not to happen.” And that should be the end of it.
- DC Officially Confirms BEFORE WATCHMEN Prequel Series
- BEFORE WATCHMEN Creators Part With ALAN MOORE on Project