Sunday, 11 March 2012

Before Watchmen - In Response To Alan Moore's Perspective

In January I linked some images and rumour regarding Watchmen, the seminal graphic novel. Of course, since then DC has announced the Before Watchmen project more fully, and the interwebz has been abuzz, perhaps even aflame, in places where the interested vocal minority hang out. And of course ye Pulp Citizen is definitely one of them!

Alan Moore has expressed his dissatisfaction, citing his moral indignation rather than any financial imperative. Quotes from a New York Times article with Moore's comments:

Mr. Moore, who has disassociated himself from DC Comics and the industry at large, called the new venture “completely shameless.”

“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.”

“As far as I know,” he said, “there weren’t that many prequels or sequels to ‘Moby-Dick.’ ”

Okay, consider this; if it is about exploiting his work, and therefore concepts, then there are separate legal and moral arguments. Ignoring the legal argument, since I am no lawyer, the moral one is the one that interests me, especially given some of the outrage at the prospect of Before Watchmen I have seen. Now personally I am kind of indifferent to it - it has yet to capture my imagination and has not evoked feelings of revulsion, so hopefully my stance is pretty objective, or at least as objective as it can be.

So he regards it as 'completely shameless' - well the man may have a point there. More shameless would have been to have done this a couple of years ago when the film came out to maximise cross-platform interest, but that is by the by. And yes, arguably the original contract that has allowed DC to reap the rewards of the success of Watchmen for so long is 'shameless' given it was expected that the rights would revert to Moore and Gibbons within a couple of years; the freak success of Watchmen in collected editions was unprecedented so the contract was formulated against prior market conditions, not conditions created by its own success. But on the moral aspect, I will concede this to Moore.

To talk of dependency on ideas he had 25 years ago is a pretty rich claim that smacks of double standard in my opinion, since much of his work can be seen to build upon what others have done. Marvelman/Miracleman? Superman (in the "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" story)? Batman and the Joker (the Killing Joke)? the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? None of the originating characters are his creations. And it is well-known that the Watchmen cast was based to a great extent on the Charlton stable of characters.

And it has been argued that From Hell draws partly upon the theory of author Stephen Knight, which inspired the movie Murder By Decree among others.

The point is that Moore is not averse to playing with the toys of others, even if he does so through deconstruction and reinvention - take for example his use of the Superman-analogue known as Supreme from Rob Liefeld; Moore crafted a brand new era for the formerly very limited character, but drew his inspiration from the tone of Superman tales of yesteryear. How different is that to others playing with toys he created?

So to claim that DC is dependent on him and his work more specifically smacks of hypocrisy in my opinion. The entire structure of comic book publication has been founded upon the work of predecessors. If Moore believes all work should never be revisited in a creative capacity, then we would not have had much of his popularly know works. If he feels it is for the originating creator to decide - and I am not saying that is his assertion by the way, but it seems one of only a few alternative arguments - then what is the point of work for hire and contracts? And at what point does permission need not be sought? In a creator's lifetime? Where is the cut-off?

And as for his comment on sequels or prequels to Moby Dick - well Stevenson never offered a sequel to (the) Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, nor Wells with the Griffin character from The Invisible Man. So therefore is it for Moore to decide what work of the past may be plundered and what is considered sacrosanct? Priceless hypocrisy if so, and blinkered point of view if not.

If it is simply that he does not appreciate further exploitation, then why his prior endorsement of extraneous material such as the rpg adaptation from Mayfair Games in the 80's? [link]

I think that some of Moore's arguments against Before Watchmen are flawed when set against the context of his own body of work, but that may down to the individual observer's own outlook.

I don't think he can argue against DC exploiting the properties while they have a legal right to do so, and his moral indignation and pronouncements do not really stand up. As to whether the original contract that has caused this enduring dispute between Alan Moore and DC was morally sound, well that is for more informed people than me to pronounce on.

1 comment:

  1. Heh, I have those two DC games books, very nice wokr they did.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...