Sep 10, 2010

Alan Moore: "The Contemporary Comics Industry Does Not Have Top-Tier Talent."

 There is an interview with Alan Moore here. He talks about the backstory about being offered the rights to Watchmen in exchange for his blessing to do prequels and sequels. It's a pretty sad read, and is just indicative of the sleazy practices of DC Comics, which unfortunately has a history of such things.

Moore ended up saying the following:

When Dave Gibbons phoned me up, he assured me that these prequels and sequels would be handled by ‘the industry’s top-flight talents’.  Now, I don’t think that the contemporary industry actually has a ‘top-flight’ of talent.  I don’t think it’s even got a middle-flight or a bottom-flight of talent.  I mean, like I say, there may be people out there who would still be eager to have their name attached to WATCHMEN even if it was in terms of “Yes, these are the people who murdered WATCHMEN”.  I don’t want to see that happen.

Followed by:

At the end of the day, if they haven’t got any properties that are valuable enough, but they have got these ‘top-flight industry creators’ that are ready to produce these prequels and sequels to WATCHMEN, well this is probably a radical idea, but could they not get one of the ‘top-flight industry creators’ to come up with an idea of their own?  Why are DC Comics trying to exploit a comic book that I wrote 25 years ago if they have got anything?  Sure they ought to have had an equivalent idea since?  I could ask about why Marvel Comics are churning out or planning to bring out my ancient MARVELMAN stories, which are even older, if they had a viable idea of their own in the quarter-century since I wrote those works.  I mean, surely that would be a much easier solution than all of this clandestine stuff?  Just simply get some of your top-flight talent to put out a book that the wider public outside of the comics field find as interesting or as appealing as the stuff that I wrote 25 years ago.  It shouldn’t be too big an ask, should it?  I wouldn’t have thought so.  And it would solve an awful lot of problems.  They must have one creator, surely, in the entire American industry that could do equivalent work to something I did 25 years ago.  It would be insulting to think that there weren’t.  That’s just my suggestion for a way that DC could remove themselves from this thorny impasse, but we shall see.

Once again, people take Moore's quotes completely out of context, because they feel as if he's insulting THEM personally for liking the comics they like. I like Geoff Johns' comics fine, but Alan Moore is completely in the logical right. Note: I did not say he's actually right. I said he was logically right.

Supposition A: Top-tier talent should focus on creating new things instead of mining old material.
Supposition B:  DC Comics is not focusing on creating new things.
Logical Conclusion: DC Comics has no top-tier talent.

I also wouldn't doubt if he was saying it just to get everyone's goat and goad them into actually creating new things.

Furthermore, if DC really wanted to make money off of Alan Moore's name, there's a billion ways to do it without using Watchmen. Marketing Top Ten or Promethea to a wider audience is a good start. "And now, for something completely different from the writer of Watchmen..."

The premise that Moore is a hypocrite for using established characters is also flawed, since, with every established character he ever got, he tried doing something completely new with them. Watchmen is a NEW take on the Charlton heroes. Lost Girls is a NEW take on these Victorian characters. Miracleman is a NEW take on the Captain Marvel characters. And when that kind of deconstruction stopped working - the moment it became old - Moore went to doing new riffs on classic takes such as in Supreme or in Tom Strong, reminding people what made these things special to begin with at a time when the comics industry sorely needed it (the grim and gritty 90s). Let's clear that up - when Moore's grim and gritty comics launched the grim and gritty movement, he immediately did what he could to make superheroes fun again.

That's simply not the case with a lot of comics these days, where it's just retread after retread or riff after riff. Watchmen is over. Let's move on.

As I've said before, I'll never really understand how superhero fans, who grew up on the values espoused by Superman or Spider-Man or Batman, can be so incredibly corporation-biased when it comes to creator's rights.

Could Alan Moore handle this situation better? Perhaps he can, but after 25 years of this, could you really blame him? He's been the only one in this entire situation to honor all contracts, to make concessions, to distance himself from it when it's getting ugly. Also, what's personal and how he chooses to do business with DC Comics is, quite frankly, none of our business.

Is Alan Moore right? Well, he's wrong about the industry not having top-flight talent (and I'm sure he knows it - JH Williams III, you know, exists after all), but I'm sure he'd like to see them prove it, with new and fresh material that can knock Watchmen off the pedestal1 it's on.

Quite frankly, so do I.

1I feel the need to point out that when Moore is talking like he's praising Watchmen, it's not out of a sense of egotism, since he's gone on record several times that he thinks the story was overpraised, that he doesn't even own a copy of it, and that he's written better. Mostly, when talking about Watchmen and its place in history, he's talking about just that - its place in history.

UPDATE: Tom Spurgeon, the Comics Reporter, has his own take on the interview here. It's a good read.

Kurt Busiek has also come down mostly on Alan's side in this one (while disclaiming that we all have the right to write something off, and we all have the right to be called bull on), on his Twitter. Furthermore, I think Kurt sums up in 50 words exactly what I was trying to get at in this entire post. "I think lots of people would be willing to do WATCHMEN spinoffs; I just have a hard time imagining a bunch of 'top rank' creators signing on. Dave would certainly qualify, and be justified -- he co-created them -- but I'd think most 'major names' would pass on the opportunity."

Which is true and I think what Alan was always talking about. And it's true too that Dave would be justified. He's the only one I'd follow on a Watchmen sequel.


Allysons Attic said...

I agree...

GRI said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin said...

that previous comment was mine; just managed to post it using another account. :(

anyway, here's a statement from bill watterson a few years back that rings well with what alan moore's saying:

"This isn't as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of ten years, I'd said pretty much everything I had come there to say. It's always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip's popularity and repeated myself for another five, ten, or twenty years, the people now "grieving" for Calvin and Hobbes would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I'd be agreeing with them. I think some of the reason Calvin and Hobbes still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it. I've never regretted stopping when I did."

Duy Tano said...

Yep, throwing Moore under the bus effectively throws Watterson under the bus too. Good quote.

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