Why the Outrage About DC Comics’ Before Watchmen Books Is Hypocritical and Nauseating
DC Comics just announced its plans to publish seven miniseries based on, and serving as prequels to, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ popular and critically acclaimed Watchmen comic, first published in 1986 and 1987.
Although these new titles had been rumored for months, the announcement still resulted in a so-called “shitstorm” on the Internet, among fans questioning the moral integrity of not just DC Comics, but also the creators participating in the prequel books, not least because of Alan Moore’s own, well-documented opposition to any and all such plans.
The Beat has a good summary of the planned projects, the pertinent commentary and, if you scroll down to the comments section, the resulting controversy among comics readers.
There are valid moral objections to these prequels, certainly. Moore and Gibbons are the creators of Watchmen and its characters, but thanks to the wording of the contract they signed 25 years ago, the property has been in the possession and under control of DC Comics.
And DC, as you might expect from one of the “Big Two” comics publishers, is seeking to exploit Watchmen for money, rather than to do the charitable and morally preferable thing and grant Moore and Gibbons control over their creation. So that’s not particularly nice or ethical of DC Comics.
But those types of objections don't begin with Watchmen. What's supposed to make these sequels any more outrageous than the continued publication of Superman or Captain America, whose creators haven’t fared any better, when it comes to controlling their creations?
I haven't heard a compelling case that they are. If you compare what Watchmen has done for Moore and Gibbons with what Superman has done for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and their estates, I think it's pretty hard to think of Watchmen as a particularly outrageous case in the long line of properties that have been exploited by Marvel and DC with zero regard for their creators since the first Superman story was published in Action Comics #1 in the year 1938.
If anything, Moore seems to be one of the few creators who've done pretty well regardless of any ill treatment, all things considered. He certainly is if you look at many of the “lesser known” writers and artists whose creations have contributed to the wealth of those companies, and who nobody gives a rat’s ass about, in terms of recognition or money. Alan Moore? He's been treated like a fucking prince in comparison.
I don't recall seeing any shitstorms for Gary Friedrich when he lost his legal fight with Marvel over the ownership of Ghost Rider a few weeks ago, at any rate. But Ghost Rider isn’t Watchmen, of course.
Except, you know, it kind of is, in all the ways that would count towards some faintly consistent idea of morality.
So, what makes Watchmen so special?
There’s a lot of talk about ethics and morals and such, but it's hard to avoid the impression that people are outraged because of the perceived quality and creative significance of Watchmen more than because of any genuine concern for creators’ rights or perceived moral wrongs.
In other words, a lot of this seems to be about a bunch of wannabe critics whose tender esthetic sensibilities are being molested by DC’s presumptuousness to publish a series of sequels to the great literary masterpiece of singular importance that is Watchmen.
And this makes the outrage on Moore’s behalf (Gibbons is fine with the sequels, by the way) a lot more nauseating to me than the hardly surprising fact that a company like DC Comics chooses to exploit yet another superhero property.