DC Comics announced yesterday that they’ll be doing a series of prequel comics under the banner Before Watchmen for the classic 1986-1987 series created by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons.
(You can see all the covers here.)
Gibbons’s response was … guarded, at best: “The original series of Watchmen is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell. 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.”
(“Desire,” not “deserve.” Interesting.)
Moore, however, didn’t pull any punches. He told The New York Times that DC’s plans to continue his work are “completely shameless,” adding, “As far as I know, there weren’t that many prequels or sequels to Moby-Dick.”
And it’s not about the cash: “I don’t want money. What I want is for this not to happen.”
Instead, he says, it’s about the principle: “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.”
And that’s where I think Mr. Moore needs to take a serious “Wait a goddamn minute, pal” pill.
How exactly can Moore take DC to task for mining his ideas from 25 years ago when he himself raided British literature and used other writers’ characters and stories as the basis for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?
Worse still, Moore wrote the graphic novel series Lost Girls, in which he took the young female characters of L. Frank Baum (Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz), Lewis Carroll (Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), and J.M. Barrie (Wendy from Peter Pan) and put them in graphic sexual situations including rape, incest, and sexual humiliation.
How can he invoke the sanctity of Moby-Dick when he himself has made a lot of money from using other writers’ characters in ways the original writers never intended and most certainly wouldn’t appreciate? Because the content makes a difference, too. The creative teams DC has assembled for these Watchmen prequels will do their best to honor the voices and actions of the Watchmen characters. Was Moore honoring Mr. Hyde by having him rape the Invisible Man to death in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Was he honoring Dorothy or Alice or Wendy by making them victims of sexual depravity?
For me, Watchmen was never a “world” (in the sense that the Marvel Universe is a world or the DC Universe is a world) but rather one big story. It’s all there, it all exists in the confines of itself, it gets richer and deeper and more revealing every time I read it, and there’s no need to explore it further. Moore and Gibbons created a very complete world and presented it on various literary, narrative, and character levels that seamlessly incorporated every different time, voice, and style necessary to tell the tale. It’s a masterpiece of modern literature in that regard, and I’ve never had the slightest interest in reading further adventures of its characters because everything I need has always been in the original text.
On the other hand, the creative teams here have been very carefully chosen to best represent the particular characters they’ll be expanding upon. In the end, I guess the thing that surprises me most about all of this is that DC didn’t do it sooner.
I’m not judging Alan Moore here, and I’m not taking sides, but the whole situation is just brimming with talking points that I’m still mulling over.
In the end, I’d rather see all of these creators simply telling new stories rather than going back to the Watchmen well, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on how all of this develops, and I certainly have a lot of interest in the prequels based solely on the talent involved.
That’s been my issue with DC’s “New 52” from the start. Why restart everything? Why come up with an event and assign good writers and good artists to it? How about assigning good writers and good artists to your characters and letting their good work be the event?
What do you think?
(And please be sure to check out the thoughts my friend Mark Hughes posted on his blog at Forbes. Thanks for the mention, Mark!)