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CSBG Archive

…And the Superhuman Review – Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1

Every week, Chad Nevett and I will be reviewing an issue of Before Watchmen through a discussion of each issue. We begin with Minutemen #1, written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke with colors by Phil Noto.

Enjoy!

Brian Cronin: Have you ever read the Mayfair Sourcebook for Watchmen? It is remarkable how much extra information that they add about the characters. I thought of that when I read Minutemen #1, which reminded me of the sourcebook in how the first issue was mostly an info dump for the various Minutemen characters, but oddly enough, an info dump that rarely went beyond what Alan Moore had already established for the characters. It struck me as strange to do a full issue that was all about introducing you to the characters and then not even adding new insights to the characters (with the notable exception of Mothman).

Darwyn Cooke’s art is as good as ever. He really knows how to nail this specific era by deftly combining the sort of “glory days” feel of the 1940s while still continuing to remind us how gritty the “glory days” really were. A great example of this came in the scene where Nite Owl foils a robbery of an armored truck. In the ensuing melee, at least one of the crooks is killed. It was a strong depiction of how an “actual” Golden Age superhero would have had to have done things.

I thought the framing sequence of Hollis Mason just finishing Under the Hood and looking back on the past in reflection right before he blows the lid on everyone’s secret was a good idea. I also appreciated the notion that Dr. Manhattan’s debut deeply affected Mason’s outlook on life.

All together, as I mentioned, this was too much of an info dump for me to appreciate it as a comic book story, but I have faith that now that this is out of the way, Cooke will move on to meatier things next issue.

Question – the often clunky captions (especially the one for Silhouette – the way her being a lesbian was worked in felt like a lead weight dropped in the middle of a paragraph). Intentionally rough to show that Mason is not the best writer? Or just plain ol’ clunky captions?

Chad Nevett: I haven’t read the Sourcebook, but, reading this issue, I have to say, if I wanted a breakdown of characters like this, I probably would have. It read very much like a sourcebook. No plot, just character bios basically. An underwhelming start to this whole project to say the least. DC would have been better served by publishing their own little guide to the world of Watchmen last week; character bios, a summary of the series, etc. so we didn’t have to waste an entire issue introducing characters like that.

What’s funny is that, as the start of almost any other series, this would merely be a mediocre first issue, but, because it’s the first comic we’ve seen of this particularly project, it’s especially disappointing to me. THIS is the first thing that DC wants to put out to show off how awesome the whole Before Watchmen project is going to be? This Watchmen Who’s Who disguised as a comic book? It’s a little puzzling, honestly — and something I’ve long seen as a problem with first issues of comics in general.

Your questions about the narration touch on something that I found funny: the book opens with narration that is immediately dismissed by Mason as bad writing. And he’s not wrong. So… why begin the comic with it? Why in the world would you begin with writing that you then dismiss as poor? That makes no sense to me. It really doesn’t. It’s also further ‘What is DC thinking with this?’ fodder.

There’s been some discussion online about the captions and if they’re excerpts from the book (which we’ve read part of in Watchmen) or merely Mason’s internal narration. It’s hard to say, because there are elements of both. The clunky ways facts are introduced feels more like writing for the book, but what we also get differs from the book. Which is something that I don’t find too problematic, honestly. One of the best parts of this issue was Cooke’s expansion on Mothman’s character. Being too reliant on what little we saw in Watchmen could be damaging to a series like this, so I don’t mind any little departures Cooke takes.

Although, I have to wonder: the way he alters Mothman — does that take away from what Moore and Gibbons did with the character originally? He was meant to be an example of the effects of this lifestyle. And, while he still is, portraying what he had to do as so much more dangerous than everyone else lessens that for me. It makes his sanity something like a noble sacrifice made to save lives instead of a warning of how dangerous that life is. I guess it’s a difference of emphasis, but an important one.

BC: It does seem odd, in the sense that if you EVER had a comic book that didn’t need to have the material re-visited in the comic itself it would be Watchmen. It is only the most popular comic book there is! The year the movie came out, the Watchmen trade sold more copies than nearly every individual comic book series and it was $20 compared to $3! And, obviously, this is specifically a prequel TO Watchmen. Who is reading a prequel to Watchmen that isn’t familiar with, you know, Watchmen?!?! It makes no sense.

Really, Cooke should have done each character like he did Mothman. Yes, it definitely clashed with how Mothman was handled in the actual Watchmen series, but Cooke can’t concern himself with that. Take some risks. This overly respectful approach is silly. It reminds me a bit of the difference between Cooke’s first Parker adaptation and his superior second adaptation. The first one was good but it was almost TOO respectful. On the second one, Cooke really cut loose and tried different things and it resulted in a much better book. He should be doing that here, too.

As for whether the Mothman change was a good one. I think we had enough examples in Watchmen of characters paying the price for being heroes that it is fair enough to show one who paid the price in a different fashion.

We haven’t mentioned the back-up. If you came across that two-pager in, say, Dark Horse Presents, would you be interested in seeing more?

CN: The different emphasis also relates to the different time periods shown as well. We saw Mothman from Laurie perspective after he’d gone insane — or, mostly, through one-line references. He wasn’t much more than a punchline and, yet, he was a member of the team and someone the others respected and were fond of. If he was simply a joke, he couldn’t have produced those reactions in the other Minutemen. If anything, Cooke is demonstrating how limited that one story is, at least with this character. Even what Cooke does with Silhouette gives her a bit more depth and rounds her out. I wasn’t the sort of person who was demanding more of these characters, but it is nice to see something being added to them. It may conflict with the tone of Watchmen, but not necessarily the facts presented there. If there’s one thing I liked about this comic, it’s that and, like you said about the Parker books, I hope Cooke keeps it up. Stay true to the source material in that you don’t contradict the events it showed, but feel free to add to the basic skeleton of characters and also shoot for a different feeling. Watchmen was so emersed in the mood of the time it was written in that seeing it from a different perspective is, honestly, interesting.

I discussed the back-up a little over in Alec Berry’s Spandexless Reads columns and it was good. It introduced the main character and offered a bit of action, while giving John Higgins a chance to remind us that he’s a damn good artist. I’m definitely interested in seeing what this turns out to be and how it’s told in two-page chapters. That part alone intrigues me, because it’s so different from most North American comics.

A question I posed in that Spandexless Reads piece was: do people consider “The Curse of the Crimson Corsair” unethical in the same way they consider Before Watchmen unethical? I haven’t seen much discussion about the strip and how it has only the most tenuous of ties to Watchmen. I guess that also raises an issue we haven’t discussed yet: the ethics of this project. Obviously, we’re both buying and reading these comics, so we don’t have a problem with them in that regard (or we’re hypocrites). My take on the issue is that I don’t see it as DC stealing anything; Moore and Gibbons signed a contract and, while the results weren’t what they expected, they were what was in the contract. That may seem heartless, but it’s how I tend to view things like this. How about you?

BC: Higgins’ art was excellent. I agree that it was a strong start to what will hopefully be a good pirate comic yarn (there are not too many of those these days). As for the lack of reaction to the Pirate story, I think it is just that the other characters are so famous that they get the bulk of the reactions. For instance, Brett Lawrie was in a mall the other day when a guy started shooting people in the food court. If Yan Gomes was in the mall with him, do you think the headlines would have been “Two Blue Jay players in mall during mall shooting” or do you think it would still be “Brett Lawrie in mall during mall shooting”? I think it would be the latter. Similarly, Rorschach and his ilk are going to get much more reaction than the pirate stuff.

As for the ethics of the project, I don’t think ethical concerns play into our review of the book. We’re not condoning or condemning it by reviewing it. I think everyone can make their own call as to whether they feel the book is a violation of their own personal ethics. We’re just here to say if the comic was good or not.

CN: Lovely sidestep there, man.

I think the only thing we haven’t touched on really is the art. Did you find it a little strange to see these characters drawn by Cooke? It surprised me a little how strange I found it, especially when the Comedian got his little spotlight. I never thought that Gibbons had so defined these characters and their looks that simply seeing them in a comic by another artist would shock me. After all, we’re used to seeing characters drawn by dozens of different artists. That’s comics. Yet, it knocked me for a loop a little. I like Cooke’s art, but getting past that shift in visuals (and Cooke is about as big a shift as you can find from Gibbons in many respects) took some doing. It was, specifically, seeing a sequential visualisation of these characters. I’ve seen pin-ups and other standalone drawings of the characters. Seeing them ‘in motion’ is something different. That reaction was the most surprising thing about the comic for me. It’s not often I surprise myself like that.

98 Comments

I think the intentional bad writing in the opening sequence is intended to de-sanctify the cow that is Watchmen in that it parodies the opening of issue #1 with Rorschach’s journal… i.e., that is technically “bad” writing due to its loose adherence to traditional grammatical rules, its off-kilter tone, and its unusually florid description of violence. That opening passage, however, is immortal. Mason’s writing, then, is better from a technical standpoint, but is pretty clunky. Will it become as immortal as the opening of Watchmen? I doubt it, but it does sort of serve as a nice ironic contrast/meta-commentary. Or maybe I’m just giving Cooke too much credit.

Reading Before Watchmen? And you don’t feel at all icky?

No, Chris. I do not feel icky.

I really like this format to review these books, and I’ll be looking forward to reading this column every week.

I disagree about a few points, though.

I don’t necessarily think it’s bad to begin things with an info dump, especially when that info dump is done in a compelling way. I suppose the best example is probably The Royal Tenenbaums, a movie that began with a four minute sequence that just got us up to speed with the titular family. But the sequence was so fun and ridiculous, and like nothing that had really been seen before, that it’s one of the more memorable film openings of the last 15-20 years. To be fair, this first issue of Minutemen wasn’t quite that good. But, I do think the info about the characters was delivered in a consistently compelling way, with great art and storytelling. I’m of the opinion that the pages aren’t wasted in telling us something we already know if that reading experience is an enjoyable one. And for me, at least, it was.

As for the idea of this issue only revealing things we already know, I think that’s a slightly unfair complaint given that this is comics. How often do we read the latest “retelling” of Spider-Man/Superman/Batman’s origins that come out every few years? For better or worse, big two comics have a long tradition of retelling the same shit over and over again.

And on that point, I also don’t necessarily agree that the people reading a Watchmen prequel will have read Watchmen. As I type this, I’m about two hours away from seeing Prometheus, which I’ve been looking forward to all year. I’ve seen (many times) and love the original Alien films (at least the first two), but I strongly suspect the theater will be filled with people that haven’t seen Alien, and indeed, might not even realize Prometheus is a prequel to it. Are comics any different? Surely a huge portion of Before Watchmen’s audience will be Watchmen fans, bot won’t the talent on the project also attract some people that haven’t read Watchmen? Won’t fans of Azzarello, JMS, or Cooke likely follow them here, even if they haven’t read the source material? I would think yes, but who knows for sure.

I liked the issue. It didn’t blow my mind, but I did think it was quite good and enjoyable, and a nice start to the whole project. I’d give it a B+. I especially loved the first page, with the visual liaisons between panels that strongly resembled Gibbons’ work on the originals.

Anyways, great column idea, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

Daniel O' Dreams

June 7, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Brian addresses the ickyness here, “As for the ethics of the project, I don’t think ethical concerns play into our review of the book. We’re not condoning or condemning it by reviewing it. I think everyone can make their own call as to whether they feel the book is a violation of their own personal ethics. We’re just here to say if the comic was good or not.”

What kind of comic reviewers would they be if they ignored one of the biggest comics of the year?

Wow, you guys were like Siskel and Ebert in this review.

Daniel O' Dreams

June 7, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I think this series is the only one that doesn’t feel completely superfluous. I actually did feel like I wanted to know more about The Minutemen. The main characters of Watchmen are all so well fleshed out and deconstructed within the narrative itself but I feel many of the Minutemen were sketches of characters rather than three dimensional (or even two dimensional) characters in their own right. I actually might get this in trade. Also Darwyn Cooke.

I think reviewing it at all does to some extent (to some people) endorse it. I think I came to this page BECAUSE you were reviewing it (when some sites are not). I think Moore’s series, for all it did, didn’t reveal everything one wanted to know about every character. Silhouette is particularly poorly served in the original, whereas Cooke made her noble and exciting to watch in this one issue. I’ll be buying the rest of his work, and probably anything that features Silk Spectre at all, and not feeling slightly icky while doing it.

Third Man, you may reread those origin retreads every year, but I and many others choose not to.

Give me something new.

The Comedian pages made me want to throw the thing out of the window.

I took the self-criticism of his own writing a sort of meta-commentary on the part of Cooke, recognizing he’s not a writer of Moore’s caliber. Odd way to open the project, admittedly.

So many problems with Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1. Ignoring aesthetic and moral concerns:
1) Did criminals wear ski masks in 1940? They never do in movies or comics from that era.
2) “My caseworker says I have moments of uncontrolled rage brought on by traumatic events in my childhood.” Did social workers talk like this in 1940?

If you go just by comics and movies, thugs always hid their identities behind bandanas in the old west, stopped covering their faces at all in the 20s through the 40s, then started wearing domino masks in the 50s, so either there was a dip in the collective intelligence of the criminal element for a few decades or comics and movies aren’t entirely accurate.

Mind you, I have no idea when balaclavas became standard issue for criminals and it could well be a fairly recent development, but they did exist in the 40s, and in a world where masked crimefighters actually existed, masked criminals isn’t too big a stretch even if they didn’t exist in the real world. I mean, if you accept Nixon being president in the 80s, why draw the line at ski masks in the 40s?

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 7, 2012 at 11:11 pm

As for the ethics of the project, I don’t think ethical concerns play into our review of the book. We’re not condoning or condemning it by reviewing it.

But you are by buying it.

My take on the issue is that I don’t see it as DC stealing anything; Moore and Gibbons signed a contract and, while the results weren’t what they expected, they were what was in the contract. That may seem heartless, but it’s how I tend to view things like this.

If Warren Ellis had a clause in his contract he didn’t realize and DC started doing Transmetropolitan prequels, over his vocal protests, would you still feel this way?

Picking this book up today. Looks like I just stole another bite of food from Alan Moore’s mouth.

Does anyone know if someone has written on the subject of comic book writers/artists/creators forming a union? I was thinking of how the Writer’s Guild’s work. I suppose it would never work though, as the nature of the business is freelance. There would be 100 artists, or more, willing to work. Anyway.

FGJ — Yes, I would. One of the people who has shaped my views on contracts in comics is Warren Ellis. He’s always emphasised making sure you knew what you were signing and, unless you were prepared for the consequences of signing that deal, don’t sign it. I wouldn’t necessarily buy the books, but I wouldn’t think that DC had done anything unethical by publishing them if they had the right to. (And none of this is meant to suggest that Ellis shares my views about Before Watchmen, obviously. Best to make that clear, though.)

Robert Hughes

June 8, 2012 at 7:10 am

>>Third Man, you may reread those origin retreads every year, but I and many others choose not to.

Give me something new.

The Comedian pages made me want to throw the thing out of the window.
>>

If the Comedian pages made you want to throw the thing out of the window, you are reading them. That seems to contradict your first two sentences.

“Are comics any different?”

Comics are definitely different than movies, yes. There are movie geeks, who are comprable to comic geeks, but the difference is that comic geeks comprise 90% or more of the audience for comics, whereas movie geeks are just a small percentage of the overall moviegoing public.

“Won’t fans of Azzarello, JMS, or Cooke likely follow them here, even if they haven’t read the source material?”

In theory, yes, but are there really that many comic geeks — and I would define anybody who buys a comic solely because of the creative team as a “comic geek” — who haven’t read ‘Watchmen’?

Steven R. Stahl

June 8, 2012 at 8:08 am

I think this series is the only one that doesn’t feel completely superfluous. I actually did feel like I wanted to know more about The Minutemen.

Unless critics pointed to the use of the Minutemen as a weakness in WATCHMEN, they were used well, and the reader knew everything about them that he needed to for the story to work. They were supporting characters.

If someone writes a dystopian novel, he describes the situation and gives the reader as much background info as he needs. Pulling out a character from the novel on the basis that “he’s interesting, and I’d like to know more about him” doesn’t make sense. The character doesn’t exist separately from the story.

What DC is doing with the Minutemen and the other WATCHMEN characters could be done with practically any character from any story: “Gee, he was interesting. I liked him. Too bad I won’t be seeing him again. Maybe I could ask _____ to do a story about him. . .” or the fan comes up with his own vision of who the character is. But what’s the point? If the writer wants to be thought of as creative, he’ll come up with a new idea for a story, accompanied by new characters, a new setting, a new theme, etc. He avoids repeating himself.

If Moore had done WATCHMEN as a prose novel, BEFORE WATCHMEN wouldn’t have been considered, because, aside from Moore probably owning the copyright, another writer wanting to do a sequel or prequel would have been obligated to try to emulate Moore’s style, and hardly anyone would try.

Many readers seem to respond to comics characters in stories differently than they do to prose characters, but they shouldn’t. Despite the visualization of them, they’re abstractions like their prose counterparts are. Once the close-ended, standalone story is done, they’re done.

One major “benefit” of the visualization of the (serial) characters might be that the deadening effects of repetition are masked. If a writer had to reintroduce characters as new constantly, describe a megalomaniac’s plans for conquering the world repeatedly, or describe the process of a villain taking over the hero’s mind over and over again, along with the hero’s heroic efforts to resist, he’d get sick of doing it. He’d have to come up with new ideas just to make the work of writing bearable. But merely showing those things happening in a visually pleasant way instead of describing them in detail dulls the pain, or eliminates it–at least for people who don’t want new things.

Aside from Moore’s claim to control over his creations, extracting the characters from WATCHMEN and placing them in stories, as if they were toys given new packaging that appealed to adults, is probably the most offensive thing about BEFORE WATCHMEN. But the way that many readers react to the characters is nearly as bad.

SRS

I am not buying any of the Before Watchmen books. I posted a blog on the entire subject here:

http://benjaminherman.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/thoughts-on-the-before-watchmen-controversy/

That said, I will admit that I was curious as to the actual quality of the books. I refused to flip through a copy of Minutemen #1 in the comic shop, so I decided to check out your review to see what you two guys thought of it.

In any case, despite my strong opposition to the whole thing, I understand that Darwyn Cooke (and the other creators involved) has to put food on the table, so I do not blame him for doing this project.

Steven:

I think your argument is pretty flawed. Stuff like this happens all the time with creative success, in and outside of comics. For instance, the issue of The Invisibles (#12) where the backstory of a character who appeared and was killed off in the space of a couple panels is easily one of the best single issues of the 1990s. Admittedly, that “prequel” was written by the original author, but still. Another notable example of a previously fine yet fairly two-dimensional supporting character being given a much richer and fascinating backstory is the Commissioner Gordon storyline in Batman: Year One. Frank Miller wrote that, not Bill Finger, and it is a classic of the medium.

In other media:

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a modern classic that gets away with appropriating supporting characters from the greatest English writer of all time. March by Geraldine Brooks won the 2006 Pulitzer. Heck, I consider Frasier to be one of the greatest TV shows of all time and superior to Cheers (it’s not a prequel, but the same idea applies).

@Chad- But Warren Ellis’ comments on contracts had the benefit of hindsight. It was something he learned from the experiences of Moore and countless others.

@Roman

Wow, that is some of the most illogical “logic” I have ever witnessed (your post)

@Chris N

Exactly. Anyone who thinks legal contacts can be read and fully understood has never seen a complicated one. Even lawyers are confused by these things oftentimes

Steven R. Stahl

June 8, 2012 at 10:02 am

I think your argument is pretty flawed. [. . ]

In other media:

One of your few examples is written by the original author; another is a spin-off from a TV series.

The point is that in a standalone, close-ended work, the characters are elements in the story and contribute to the success of the story. The ending of the story is an ending in several senses.

In BEFORE WATCHMEN, the characters are more important than the stories they’re put in. The characters can be put on T-shirts, posters, toasters, etc.; as continuing sources of profit, they’re much more valuable to accountants than mere stories are

The fetishization of comics characters is destructive, since it discourages creativity. There’s no aesthetic justification for BEFORE WATCHMEN; if any of the creators had wanted to do stories on similar themes or subjects, he could have created them, with the differences between their stories and WATCHMEN being no lesser than the differences between two novels with similar themes and subjects in any genre.

The only apparent reason for doing BEFORE WATCHMEN is to extract the greatest amount of profit from WATCHMEN with the least amount of promotion, due to the name recognition and controversy. Creativity is a non-factor.

SRS

“with the differences between their stories and WATCHMEN being no lesser than the differences between two novels with similar themes and subjects in any genre.”

Just as a counter-point, your argument is purely from an artistic standpoint; surely creators are allowed to factor the audience in to their decisions as well, right? That is to say, there is something to be said for the “differences” including the fact that conservatively ten times as many people will read these stories as would read the same stories told about “original” characters — in fact, a further argument could even be made about weighing the relatively likelihood that “original” characters would be published long enough to resolve the story (whereas this series is basically guaranteed to be completed, and reprinted in perpetuity).

Travis Pelkie

June 8, 2012 at 10:59 am

I agree with SRS’s aesthetic argument, but if I’m understanding right, he seems to be saying that there’s no possible way to use characters from a self contained work in another context. We can argue the quality, but I don’t think there’s anyone claiming characters can’t be used in a new work. I believe there have been a couple of books “rewriting” The Great Gatsby from the viewpoint of other characters, along with Roman’s examples, flawed though they may be.

Also, as mentioned in the piece, the Minutemen have been used and their stories expanded on in other media (the RPGs from the ’80s). Again, aesthetic quality aside, people DO want to know more about certain characters sometimes, and if that’s not “creativity”, it’s certainly a spark for it.

Or in other words, I’m not exactly sure what SRS is arguing :)

As to BW and the ethics, etc. I’m not buying any of these off the racks. Down the road, if they show up in cheapo bins, maybe.

As to the Mothman change, it’s been long enough since I read W that I don’t even remember that character, but I’m not surprised that Cooke made changes that may have missed the point. I read a comment on the Silk Spectre mini to the effect that it was hard to figure out what to do with her because she was so much a character tied to her mother, or the men in her life, etc, that she didn’t really get to shine on her own.

Duh.

That’s kind of the “point” of her character, isn’t it, that sort of Tori Amos “she’s been everybody else’s Girl/maybe one day she’ll be her own”? A commentary on the role of women in society and in comics? If you miss that, how well do you “get” the book that Moore and Gibbons did?

Also re: ethics. I read http://www.srbissette.com and he read the new Supreme issue (the last Moore script), and he brought up that there wasn’t the fury over that, which made me rethink the BW a bit. I’m still against it, but I’m a little more open to the idea that it isn’t completely unethical or “unethical” on DC’s part.

Bissette had a great line, though, because in talking about the ’90s Moore stuff, he said “did Alan even READ his contracts?”. That’s the line that got me, as well as reading an old Wizard where Moore discussed his work with McFarlane in terms that made it sound like they didn’t have a strict contract but a “gentleman’s agreement”. Which Neil Gaiman might like to inform Alan isn’t the best thing to have….

I agree about the contract. You don’t see people boycotting Johnson & Johnson or Microsoft because a chemist or a programmer doesn’t own what they created while working there.

@Dennis

Probably because there isn’t a clause in the Microsoft contract that says “the rights to this program will revert back to you after 6 months”

That is to say, there is something to be said for the “differences” including the fact that conservatively ten times as many people will read these stories as would read the same stories told about “original” characters — in fact, a further argument could even be made about weighing the relatively likelihood that “original” characters would be published long enough to resolve the story (whereas this series is basically guaranteed to be completed, and reprinted in perpetuity).

By that reasoning, Sean, why create anything new at all? Why take any chances with new characters & concepts? Just err on the side of caution and re-hash the same material over and over and over. Foregt about innovation. Never mind that Moore & Gibbons were being incredibly innovative when they first created Watchmen. If they had played it safe to ensure they had the largest audience possible, then there would be no Watchmen, period.

@Ben

And in the first half of your paragraph you just described the state of modern comics – and modern Hollywood as well

@abcdefg

That’s not exactly what the contract said.

@Ben Herman
You say this but you seem to be forgetting that all these characters were revamps of old Charlton comics characters. And that only when they couldn’t get the rights to those characters did they “create” new ones. Would some people have been upset in the 80s if it actually had been some guy named Blue Beetle instead of Nite Owl?

I guess my point is I don’t really care about what specific character is being used in a story, whether it’s old, new or somewhere in between. I just want to read good stories and to that end, I stick with creators that I like. I bought Minutemen #1 because I like Darwyn Cooke and think he usually puts out good work, not because I really care specifically about knowing their back stories. I’ll know he has done a good job if I do end up caring.

@Ben

Using established characters doesn’t mean a work can’t be innovative. Moore originally wanted to use characters from Charlton Comics, IIRC.

@abcdefg

If that’s what you think the state of modern comics is – you just need to be buying different books. Just reading Marvel and DC is like only listening to KISSFM or whatever. Yeah, you would (rightly) think it’s stale and repetitive. But there’s so much more out there! There’s room for both.

I think it was a huge blessing in disguise that Moore & Gibbons were not allowed to use the Charlton characters, and had to create counterparts. That really enabled them to go off in directions that would not have been possible with the originals, take risks that would not have been allowed. Obviously they used Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, The Question, etc as inspiration and starting points, but the end result was that the Watchmen characters were in many ways dissimilar from the Charlton heroes. For example, Captain Atom and Doctor Manhattan, despite certain similarities, are two very different characters. In so many ways, the Watchmen cast surpassed their Charlton inspirations.

Robert Hughes

June 8, 2012 at 12:56 pm

>>Probably because there isn’t a clause in the Microsoft contract that says “the rights to this program will revert back to you after 6 months”<<

There's no such clause in the Watchmen contract either. It was just how Moore choose to read the clause that was there. As a fan of Moore's works, I feel bad that it happened to him. Unfortunately, it did and he's left holding the short end of the stick.

I agree with abcdefg regarding “the state of modern comics.” That is why nowadays I hardly read anything anymore from DC and Marvel. A lot of the stuff I am picking up is from Image, IDW, Dark Horse, Fantagraphics, and various smaller publishers.

Travis:

Thanks for saying what I was trying to express more eloquently. Personally, I think that Before Watchmen is unnecessary, but it’s ridiculous to say that supporting characters from works with a clear ending can not be used creatively in further stories.

Does anyone seriously think that, if sales of Watchmen collections had dropped off a cliff in the late nineties, say, to the point where it did not make economic sense to keep the book in print, that DC _wouldn’t_ have keep reprinting in nonetheless strictly for the purpose of screwing Moore over?

No offense to anyone involved, but my interest in Alan Moore’s bank balance is

Since DC has made overtures to Moore, Jeff R., which he rebuffed, I would say that yes, had Watchmen stopped being popular, they might indeed have let their claim lapse. But that’s beside the point, since it’s more popular than ever.

Huh, odd. I click on this link that has no title, and there’s a blank spot where the photo of the comic should be, and there’s no words below either. It’s like I have a mental block that prevents me from seeing anything here. Must be something that doesn’t exist…

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 9, 2012 at 7:11 am

Chad:

FGJ — Yes, I would. One of the people who has shaped my views on contracts in comics is Warren Ellis. He’s always emphasised making sure you knew what you were signing and, unless you were prepared for the consequences of signing that deal, don’t sign it. I wouldn’t necessarily buy the books, but I wouldn’t think that DC had done anything unethical by publishing them if they had the right to. (And none of this is meant to suggest that Ellis shares my views about Before Watchmen, obviously. Best to make that clear, though.)

Fair play. As someone else said, Ellis got the benefit of hindsight after they did this to Moore. Moore was the guy who taught everyone that just because they say they won’t screw you like S&S/Kirby, doesn’t mean they won’t.
My view – they may legally be right, but they are being arseholes, and I don’t want that rewarded.

I read MINUTEMEN #1 and I liked it. That’s good enough for me.

Steven R. Stahl

June 9, 2012 at 10:37 am

I agree with SRS’s aesthetic argument, but if I’m understanding right, he seems to be saying that there’s no possible way to use characters from a self contained work in another context.

No, I wasn’t saying that. Normally, a writer can’t use someone else’s characters without permission, anyway, but why would he want to in a standalone work? His creativity and skill in creating the characters used in a particular story are what make him a creative, professional writer. By using Moore’s characters, he’s limiting himself and implicitly stating that he’s doing it for the money. The aesthetic question isn’t how well Cooke handled the Minutemen in MINUTEMEN #1, but what he might have done with original characters and his own approach to the material.

The DC and Marvel characters might be put to better use in close-ended stories. Tony Stark, for example. Put him in a situation where he’s finally married an old love and struggling to stay faithful to her, after already being forgiven once. He’s also struggling to handle the consequences of his researchers discovering how to convert non-radioactive matter to energy easily. People around him see wonderful possibilities; he sees the terrifying ones. The story could go in various directions, from Stark turning to magic and using it to eliminate technology in an effort to stave off disaster, to using a specific spell to eliminate that particular technology and its good uses, to facing terrorists trying to use the technology to blow up the world, and ending up blowing up the world himself.

If a writer can think of a promising scenario for a story, but the existing characters he has access to don’t fit into it, then what’s stopping him from creating his own? Absolutely nothing. He can write the story he wants to tell, and then try to sell it. Access to characters isn’t anything but a self-imposed limit on storytelling; concern about it is concern about being able to profit easily from the story, not the process of creating it.

If someone were to write a story about Tony Stark that ended his story convincingly, along with development of his themes, would Marvel be willing to publish it? Probably not, because the writer’s skilled definition of him as a character would lead to unfavorable comparisons with future stories and point out the emptiness of stories which have him go on forever.

SRS

“The only apparent reason for doing BEFORE WATCHMEN is to extract the greatest amount of profit from WATCHMEN with the least amount of promotion, due to the name recognition and controversy. Creativity is a non-factor.”

See also: Fear Itself. Secret Invasion. Blackest Night.

Comics fans NEVER “vote with their wallets”. The most reviled books are often the highest sellers. People love to talk crap about things, even after buying them, because purchasing them allows them to find more things that they hate. The hypocrisy is staggering, possibly moreso here than in any other entertainment medium.

“If someone were to write a story about Tony Stark that ended his story convincingly, along with development of his themes, would Marvel be willing to publish it? Probably not, because the writer’s skilled definition of him as a character would lead to unfavorable comparisons with future stories and point out the emptiness of stories which have him go on forever.”

Well, they did publish that whole “The End” line of comics for a while, but I don’t know if any of them tied up character’s stories well enough that they’d ruin the on-goings for anyone.

It’s sad, but perhaps inevitable, that a discussion of the actual merits of a BW comic — and Minutemen is the only series of those I’d be interested in buying, as Black Freighter will be only together in a trade — degenerates into another Moore vs. DC debate thread.

I even agree mostly with Moore, but that is immaterial in discussing the merits of Cooke’s Minutemen. A work can and should be judged on its merits. It can be critiqued in a larger context of “should it exist?”, but there also needs to be a place where it can be talked about as a distinct piece. That’s all CBR is trying to do here; all those who want to argue the “cosmic” issues; well, you have plenty of places to do that on this very site.

Leave this column to those who want to talk about the actual comics, please?

Steven R. Stahl

June 10, 2012 at 6:06 am

A work can and should be judged on its merits.

That’s what people are doing by questioning whether BEFORE WATCHMEN should exist. Whenever someone wonders why the market for superhero comics is so limited, compared to the audience for the superhero movies, he needs to consider who the comics are written for: people who value the characters in the comics over everything else. People might claim that Spider-Man, Superman, and the other heroes can be used for millions of stories, but, given how they’re written, that’s like claiming that a soap opera character can be used in a million stories. Maybe, if you count 500,000 breakups and 500,000 reconciliations with the same two men stories.

If the next AVENGERS movie has Thanos using the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube to try to take over the universe, as he did in CAPTAIN MARVEL, the Avengers will have faced their greatest menace ever. What’s left for them to do after that? Fight God? The producers can’t combine subplots with smaller threats as a comics writer might do. Starlin did one more issue of CAPTAIN MARVEL after the Thanos storyline ended, and then left the series.

The characters in unending serials might not die, but they wither away from overuse, like a broom losing its bristles. Nobody refurbishes an old broom; he buys a new one.

SRS

SRS –

As I mentioned, there is a place to discuss whether Before Watchmen should have been done — and I basically side with those who think it was a bad idea. But if I understand your logic, the fact that the Avengers faced an ultimate threat in INFINITY GAUNTLET means that no more Avengers comics need to be written.

Not that has anything to do with evaluating Minutemen #1 as a piece devoid of the context of its creation, which is really what I was posting about. It is not only possible, it is a worthwhile exercise to have BOTH critiques available, not to insist one is the only legitimate approach — which bringing the whole “should it exist?” argument into this thread certainly does.

I love how Alan Moore’s worshipers forget League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lost Girls when they belly ache about creator rights. Alan Moore continues to make a living by using characters that other people created. Hell, the man turned three children’s books into child porn. (Of course he also failed to see if he COULD use the characters, so that his own country couldn’t sell the book until the characters SOMEONE ELSE CREATED entered public domain.) He’s a hypocrite to suggest that no one should ever use his own pastiche Charlton heroes when he doesn’t own either the Charlton or Watchmen version of the characters.

Frankly, I hope Watchmen stays in print until it’s in public domain.

Steven, IF the next Avengers film is all about Thanos, what would that leave the Avengers?: Celestial Madonna, Masters of Evil, Ultron (in infinite versions), Morgana Le Fey, Korvac, Wundagore, Count Nefaria, war with the Defenders, membership drive, Young Avengers, etc. etc. It’s not always about scale, about bigger and biggest. That’s the mistake sequels usually make, but the Avengers have plenty of resonant stores outside of Thanos’ deathwish that can be used to build interesting movies.

Michael, I think Watchmen is definitely destined for public domain.

I love Watchmen and Moore’s Swamp Thing, but people are missing a big point here: It’s common knowledge that Moore did not read his contract. Even if you don’t believe that, he still signed it. So who’s fault is it?

I’m not reading these now, not out of protest for how Moore’s characters (really, DC’s characters) are being used, but more because I feel that the story is already told. If I hear good things, I may check out the trades.

As another reader mentioned, what about League or Lost Girls? Do you really feel that those characters (not created by Moore) were portrayed by Moore in ways that their creators intended? We KNOW they weren’t.

Moore is a great writer. Certainly Watchmen and his Swamp Thing books (IMO) are some of the best comics ever created, but we must remember that he created them for DC. What they do with them is their own decision, whether we like it or not.

Me? I guess I’m OK with it. I wouldn’t feel “icky” reading them. I just don’t see the point at this moment in time. maybe later, I’ll decide to check them out. If I do, I won’t feel bad about it.

My biggest gripe with Before Watchmen is simple: Is DC this affraid of paying someone to create something new?

BW is a prequel to a property they own in strictly legal terms, and they’re milking for all it’s worth because they can, but should they? The cost of doing so is that they wasted having a nice working relationship with a person responsible for most of the hits they had in the last 30 years. Hell, the new 52 include Swamp Thing AND a PG-13 version of John Constantine. Most of the movies coming from DCU still have traces of things Alan Moore did or created (look at that Joker and the little dialog quips from Killing Joke).

Prequels are a ludicrous thing. You already know what’s going to happen, not merely how it will end in an abstract way, but how every character already has a clearly painted destiny. The story will never be as exciting as the original, and pale in comparison, no matter how much you hype it (Prometheus, Star Wars prequels, Terminator Movies without James Cameron). And they have a shorter shelf life, which means they don’t make for more sales, except for the little bump in the price when you buy box sets.

Besides the nostalgia factor, there’s very little to attract new readers. I’d argue that making it a prequel shows the cowardice and restraint of the project. This prequel thing may have some big DC names (Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison, the biggest sellers they have, are absent), but these are “comic book big names”, not big names per se. These are names that only old comic book readers will know. Nothing new or exciting to attract readers from other fields. There are no emerging artists with exciting styles (not even for the covers), no well known names from TV or literature, just people collecting a paycheck or paying their dues in order to negotiate other upcoming projects with DC.

Reviews like this, with all the political correctness they have, point out the obvious: Watchmen readers will be disappointed because whoever’s doing this aren’t Moore and Gibbons (whose importance is not appreciated enough, also: absent from the project), fans of the artists and writers involved have seen them do better in their own things (100 Bullets, Parker, The Pro, Wanted) and some old comic book readers will be hoping this will be a lesson and stop them from doing a Sandman book prequel without Neil Gaiman or a prequel to Arkham Asylum without Grant Morrison and Dave McKean.

@Michael -> Yes, curse the worshipers, I want my comic books they way they were before Moore, Miller and his ilk appeared in the scene. I want my homoerotic fights between men dressed in tight clothes untainted by sexuality, anxiety and moral issues.

SFO, what about Watchmen readers who never thought it was the Holy Grail, but did want to see more about certain characters than Moore’s framework provided? Len Wein, Joe Kubert, JMS and Adam Hughes are plenty big names (and JMS has several movie and TV credits); bringing in Heinberg or Whedon or even Vaughan would just result in accusations of commercialism. This is the project that can’t win: except that it will ultimately win or fail, as this issue did, simply by being good comics.

Ok, I’ve had zero opinion about this from the announcement of Before Watchmen. Now I understand how Alan Moore as a creator, doesn’t want this. But, comics are like any other medium. And these mediums will continue characters and stories until the end of time. Rehash after rehash. That’s just how it goes. Either come up with an original concept every time it calls for one, or recreate/add on to a preexisting idea. Alan Moore is pissed, I get that. But how many times has he took characters and ideas from others and shape them in his own way. Did anyone get Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson’s opinion when Moore RECREATED Swamp Thing? And I’m not saying Moore on Swamp Thing was bad or good. That’s not my argument. What I’m saying is everyone is getting their underwear in a bunch because Watchmen is considered a masterpiece in most circles, and to a degree, I second that. But don’t think for a damn second that any comic/novel/film/TV fan of a certain property has never envisioned his own personal take on his favorite creation and would love to tell their take on it. If not, then your a soulless unimaginative bastard. Stop beating this subject down. Stop beating these writers and artist and even DC for wanting to add something to a story that they all love as well. We have all sunken to a point to where we are all critics, who have nothing better to do than meticulously break everything down and study it and never truly appreciated a thing anymore.

And furthermore, I’m liking it as much as the original with just this one issue out.

Leslie Fontenelle

June 10, 2012 at 10:53 am

“what about Watchmen readers who never thought it was the Holy Grail, but did want to see more about certain characters than Moore’s framework provided?”

What, aren’t there enough stale corporate properties being shat on by substandard creative efforts on DC’s regular line of let’s call them books?

Leslie Fontenelle

June 10, 2012 at 10:54 am

“And furthermore, I’m liking it as much as the original with just this one issue out.”

Then you didn’t understand the original AT ALL.

And this is why I usually don’t post comments, cause I’m surrounded by small minded, internet dependent wanks, who literally:

“have nothing better to do than meticulously break everything down and study it and never truly appreciated a thing anymore.”

Especially from people’s comments on how damn ignorant all this controversy is in the first place.

I’m done, I’m going have daydreams about my comic story where the weak will destroys us like the unsatisfied yet deserving tossers we are.

I came out the gate being pretty vehemently against “Before Watchmen” but the more I thought about it…

Every classic superhero we know and love today has been passed thru the lens of hundreds of writers and as comic book fans we get to celebrate the good runs and comdemn the bad runs, perhaps even sticking them out for sheer love of a character. Watchmen is not Preacher. Every inch of it drips with comic booky lore and, hell, the very characters are based on DC guys that Moore had to re-name. It’s a book immersed in a culture and I’m not upset to see that culture do what it always has done with beloved characters. Moore is revered the way Siegel and Shuster, Jack Cole, and Jack Kirby are only without quite the monetary ass-raping that occurred with the original greats. I think he should be flattered by the love and excitement to expand upon his characters. “his characters”.

It might be a money grab on the part of DC… but at least it’s a money grab with some fucking art to it. This is not Liefeld Hawk and Dove. This isn’t “shameless-and -pointless-exploitation-gay-character”. There are more toxic things to be angry about currently…

I agree with Ross.

@Shawn Hill: That’s precisely my argument about it. It was a project that’s not worth pursuing, just because it’s not going to sell as much as they want it to, will be compared too much to the original, and will be called a cop out (which it is, no matter the effort to call it respectful) and won’t appeal to anyone outside the comic book market. On top of that, it’s a prequel, which means it won’t “expand the property” as they say, but merely exploit it in a short term fashion.

The Kuberts and Adam Hughes are big names… within comics. The last mainstream hit JMS had was Babylon 5, which was long ago.

All the talk about continuing with beloved characters and it being a normal thing or the “Alan Moore stole from others” it’s fine and all, except that this isn’t the continuation of anything, or the beginning of a new era in comics, not even a great endevour to bring beloved characters to the forefront of the industry, but a void exercise of Nostalgia.

Oh! Irony.

@FunkyGreenJerusalem Arguments over whether Moore read his contract are silly: the real legal test is whether Moore was fairly compensated for his work, and whether that compensation reflected the ultimate fair value of his creation. Moore and Gibbons had no problems being paid well above industry standard wages for their work during Watchmen’s initial run. Moore’s anger materialized only after Watchmen became more successful than anyone imagined. Had Moore been in posession of a crystal ball, he might have thought to decrease his upfront pay in exchange for a hard date on reversion rights. But he did not, and the rest is Monday morning quarterbacking.

@SFO If you think DC is indeed ‘that afraid’ of paying someone to create something new, then it seems to me you could benefit from an internship with a comic book writer, artist or publisher. I think it would broaden your horizons. As @KrisR noted, this happens in any medium: check out the TV series ‘Community’ for the latest example.

@SRs You write like a professional curmudgeon: “…DC and Marvel characters might be better put to use in close ended stories?” WTF? Are you serious?? For whose benefit? Everyone gains a benefit from recurring revenue from literary properties, even Alan Moore. The fact that he did not elect to exercise his rights does not obviate the fact that he would have no career at all were it not for the prose industry.

I feel badly for Alan Moore, but it’s not as if he has been blackballed from ever creating another book, failed to receive payment or receive moral rights. We all know who he is and what he has contributed. Publishers vie for his attention. Everyone that builds anything runs into this problem. The question is, do you become a diva like Brigette Bardot and shut yourself off from the world, or do you appreciate the lifestyle that has been made possible by your gift, and use your days to find things that you love to do?

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm

I love Watchmen and Moore’s Swamp Thing, but people are missing a big point here: It’s common knowledge that Moore did not read his contract. Even if you don’t believe that, he still signed it. So who’s fault is it?

It’s DC’s fault. They should have insisted he get a lawyer to go over it, rather than take them at their word. Moore is a hippy – that’s a very important thing to understand in this situation. Go read about the American underground comix scene with Crumb, Shelton etc, and the British comics scene that Moore came from, with Eddie Campbell, Dez Skinner etc Contracts weren’t on every bodies minds, and they were all in it for the art, so just worked by word alone.
This may sound nuts now that we known DC and Marvel would fuck their own mothers if it got them an extra cent from your contract, but it wasn’t as known then.
When they made a big splash telling everyone they had a creator friendly contract, Moore believed them. He liked them. He didn’t expect Dick Giordano to lead him into getting fucked.

And y’know, even if you don’t see that as fair reasoning – because you live in a world with the internet and have read all these horror stories and thus know much better – just because the contract allowed them to keep ownership, doesn’t mean they had to. They could have stuck to what they had told Moore the contract would mean, they could have just given it back to him to keep him happy. Once he started complaining because they had breached the contract to screw him out of a few thousand bucks with selling ‘promotional items’, they could have renegotiated.

That last sentence is really worth thinking about for those of you who like to say it’s all ethical because he signed the contract – Even before they decided to keep it in print, DC breached the contract to make a few bucks out of promotional items. Even if he’d read every line, DC steal stole from Gibbons and Moore.

There’s no two ways about it – DC are dicks. Like Moore when he signed the contract, we all thought they’d gotten better, but Dan Didio showed they still have a rapists heart.
To me, in this day and age where we know the history of products, (not just in comics), it’s our responsibility to be good little capitalists, and spend our money not just on the companies and products we want, but the one’s that we want to see succeed and encourage the behaviour of.
Buying Before Watchmen encourages companies to be cutthroats, who’ll do anything for a dime. Buying Before Watchmen encourages comics companies not to try anything new, but to sell us shitter versions of stories we’ve already read. I’d rather support comics that were made without hurting creators, and that put quality first.

@FGJ … if Alan Moore had truly been screwed by DC for breaching the contract, which you present as fact, and had they been guilty of the unlawful sale of promotional items, do you believe Moore would have any problem finding an attorney to take on his case on retainer? Or is it easier to tar every publisher, every writer, every artist and every critic who dares to review the book as being complicit with the very worst crimes that happened to the Crumbs, Simons, Schuster, et. al? Under your tortuous definitions, how is Didio a rapist? More importantly, whose books should we be reading instead?

It is true that we have more choice in what we choose to buy, and that the provenance of a product is increasingly important. But I reject your assertion that ‘Before Watchmen’ is simply a shittier version of things we’ve already read. Like bilingual puns or even Moore’s reinvention of classic characters in LoEG, some of the best stuff comes from a metatextual approach to contemporary literature. I’m sorry you feel the way you do, but I for one am looking forward to further explorations of the world I previously had only 12 issues to experience.

SFO
Only if it’s not entertaining is it “not worth pursuing”.
Lighten up.
They are comic books. Therefor entended for “the cimic book market”.

@SFO, JMS also wrote Thor and Underworld:Awakening, both of which made money.

@Leslie; no, there aren’t enough, not when what I want to know concerns Silhouette, Sally Jupiter, etc.

@Ross, yes, exactly, with comic book characters in a serial medium, you get decades of your hero with every permutation imaginable, a Batman for ever age and taste; that’s not a bad thing, it’s the nature of the beast.

@FGJ, hippie or not, Moore should have known what DC was a business interested in owning characters.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm

if Alan Moore had truly been screwed by DC for breaching the contract, which you present as fact, and had they been guilty of the unlawful sale of promotional items, do you believe Moore would have any problem finding an attorney to take on his case on retainer?

Do the barest bit of research on the matter before trying to catch people out, and you’ll know the answers to this.
No one disputes that DC made ‘promotional items’ for Watchmen, and then sold them. They That is, they sold buttons for Watchmen product but claimed it was to promote the series, and it was ‘self-financing promotion’, therefore, didn’t have to give Gibbons or Moore a cut.

Read an interview with Moore – google ‘Alan Moore seraphemera’ for a good one relating to BW – he doesn’t want to sit in court for months with people he doesn’t like, as he would if he sued over any of it. As I said, he’s a hippy. He’s an older, wiser hippy now, but he was a young idealistic hippy back then, and he thought the company was telling the truth when they said they’d come around to his way of thinking.
He also points out that if he sues, he won’t be able to publicly call DC out – something he’s been doing for a couple of decades now, which always makes it awkward for DC (maybe not with fanboys, but if you go read the article on Before Watchmen in The Guardian newspaper, you’ll see Didio looking like a twerp trying to claim BW is a love-letter to Moore, inter-cut with Moore saying how much he despises them and how creatively bankrupt they are.
All this stuff about comics writers needing lawyers etc, and Ellis telling everyone to check the contract? All the good deals Gaiman, Ellis and Ennis got at Vertigo? It all happened because Moore got screwed over, and he made a lot of noise about it.

Or is it easier to tar every publisher, every writer, every artist and every critic who dares to review the book as being complicit with the very worst crimes that happened to the Crumbs, Simons, Schuster, et. al?

The original sin already happened, with Sigel and Shuster, but this is a sin happening right now. YOU know that if you buy this, and other people like YOU buy this, they will keep doing it. If YOU don’t buy this, and other people like YOU don’t buy this, they will stop making product like this. At best, at absolute best, BW will sell 200,000, an issue, and we all know it will be below 100,000 by the end, so it doesn’t take that many people to show some responsibility with how they spend their money.

You know why corporations get scared when they get caught out using child labour, or working Chinese people so hard they commit suicide? It’s because they lose sales over it. You know why every company is trying to prove how green they are? Because it gains them sales.
In a capitalist society, with international corporations running the show and politicans and courts refusing to lay down fair play rules, it’s the responsibility of the consumer to dictate acceptable behaviour.
If you buy the product that came from screwing over the creator, they will continue to screw over creators. If you buy work that supports the creators, and encourages new ideas and stories, then that’s what they’ll make. Capitalism baby, it’s only evil if you are.

Oh, what do you think happened to Robert Crumb with getting screwed over? I’m not aware of it. I used him as an example of not requiring contracts, at least in his early days, because that’s how Moore saw the world. Simon got screwed over by Martin Goodman hiding Captain America profits from him, but in the 70′s settlement he did alright (it was Jack Kirby who lost out there).

Under your tortuous definitions, how is Didio a rapist?

I didn’t say he was a rapist, I said under his lead DC showed they have a rapists heart – ie. They can do something, so they will do it – screw the ethics/morals of it, who cares about the howls of outrage, who cares about long term damage to the company image/Watchmen brand, we want short-term profit!

More importantly, whose books should we be reading instead?

Start with Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s ‘Comic Book Comics’, especially #5, to get a bit of a grounding in comic book history, and how a lot of the issues now came about.
From there, read what you like, but avoid any where the ethics are out of control – go for creator owned Image and Dark Horse titles – Danger Club and America’s Got Powers are better superhero books than the big two have been putting out. Mind MGMT, by Matt Kindt, Saga by B.K Vaugn and Fiona Staples, Mudman by Paul Grist, Hellboy and BRPD by Mignola. Fatale by Brubaker and Phillips. These are just some examples of genre books, similar to Marvel/DC books, that are creator owned, and in my opinion, better than anything the big two put out.
If you want more than Genre books, try anything by Drawn And Quaterly, Top Shelf or Fantagraphics – Seth, Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Art Spiegelman, Charles Burns, Joe Sacco, James Sturm, Peter Bagge, Jason, The Hernandez Bros, Kevin Hezuniga – none of these guys have ever let me down, nor are they being screwed over.
And the great thing is – all of the books above that I mentioned? WAY better than Before Watchmen will be. I 100% guarantee it.
Marvel and DC have plenty of books that aren’t the result of creators being screwed either. Spider-Man is pretty cut and dried, Batman is solid, most characters post 1970 were done above board. DC/WB are being dicks about it, so it is a bit gray, but the courts did order them to pay the Siegels a cut for Superman, which they’ll eventually have to pay out. Whether or not you like the quality of their books is a different matter – some are good, a lot are terrible.

It is true that we have more choice in what we choose to buy, and that the provenance of a product is increasingly important. But I reject your assertion that ‘Before Watchmen’ is simply a shittier version of things we’ve already read. Like bilingual puns or even Moore’s reinvention of classic characters in LoEG, some of the best stuff comes from a metatextual approach to contemporary literature.

BUT, Before Watchmen isn’t a metatextual approach at all. It’s a 35 issue Phantom Menace. These are stories about the characters designed to ‘fill-in the gaps’ ie remove any ambiguity from the project at all. JMS promises to tell you the story of why Dr. Manhattan forgot his watch in the lab and went back in to get it.
That’s not meta-textual, it’s fan fiction, and the best it will do is remove the last human act that character had.
Do you think The Comedian series is going to take that character arch-type and explore our fascination with characters we would find repugnant in the real world, or do you think it’s just going to be showing us how bad-ass he is as he kills and fucks everything in his path?
This is a prequel written by different people. This is Frank Herbert’s son and Kevin J Anderson shitting out Dune prequels, or the ‘estate approved’ Gone With The Wind sequel (written sixty years after), without even their tenuous claims to legitimacy.

And just think, if DC hadn’t been such dicks to Gibbons and Moore, they may well have done their own continuations of the book that would have continued the meta-textual approach to the superhero genre the original had, rather than sloppy shit you are about to spend your earnings on.

Google ‘Tom Spurgeon Comics Reporter Watchmen’ and ‘David Brothers Before Watchmen’, – there’s a couple of relevant articles written by both’ for smarter men than myself writing about the ethical rot of this project.
And do check out Alan Moore’s take on all this by looking up the aforementioned seraphemera books interview with Kurt Amacker.
In it, Moore requests fans of his work and fans of the original Watchmen to not read these prequels, and he gives good reasons for it.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 10, 2012 at 9:26 pm

@FGJ, hippie or not, Moore should have known what DC was a business interested in owning characters.

Why? Because you know that? You only know that because you have the internet, and have read interviews and articles by people warning of this sort of thing, which everyone learned from Moore. It was a different time then.
Remember, DC were shouting loudly and proudly that they were creator friendly, and that the Watchmen contract was something new, as it gave ownership to Moore and Gibbons. DC were advertising themselves as creator friendly to shame/contrast Shooter’s Marvel who were trying to get Kirby to sign away his rights (for the third time) in exchange for artwork that was legally his.
As Moore has said, he knew, had worked with, and liked the people who gave them the contract and told him to sign – he considered them his friends.

Oh, and one more point – DC talked him out of using characters they owned, and told him to create his own, that he and Gibbons would own, so the two could do what they liked with them.
See – what DC did doesn’t even make sense. It’s not like the Charlton characters have been useful/profitable in any other sense – DC could have owned Watchmen without controversy, instead they told Moore to create characters he would own, and then screwed him out of them, and lost him working for them forever.

@FGJ You and I are on the same page when it comes to calling corporations on acceptable behavior, and the need for buyers to hold corporations accountable. I’ve read a number of the suggested comics you suggested already, thanks. I’m sure you’re a reasonable person and we probably agree on many things. And, probably as a surprise to you, I had already read most of the Moore citations you suggested.

The conceit of your argument is that somehow being a “hippy” and “insisting (Moore) get a lawyer” would have provided Moore with the relief he sought. If you understood that not everything is found on Google, you’d see that the issue wasn’t about the attorney, it was about Alan Moore underestimating the success that Watchmen would become, and the failure of the contract (presumably the same one he had used in a variety of other circumstances) to protect the rights that Moore believed he had.

As much as I admire Moore for the things he has written, for his humanitarian acts (such as championing the statue of Harvey Pekar), and the importance of taking a principled stand, I cannot agree with a witch hunt whose fundamental premise is flawed and presumes to know the plot lines of fiction before they are published.

@FGJ “Why? Because you know that? You only know that because you have the internet, and have read interviews and articles by people warning of this sort of thing, which everyone learned from Moore.”

No, I know it because I’ve read books about comic book companies, including the legal and ownership battles over Superman, Miracleman, Captain Marvel, etc. What I only know from Moore is the drive and the push to have creator-owned characters at all, but in my experience those characters are SELDOM as interesting or entertaining as the corporate ones owned by the big two, and are often clear but paler imitations of the true icons. As a reader, I generally want to read about Wonder Woman and Batman, not Nemesis or Shadowhawk or whoever might have less of a history, less of a backstory, and less of a convincing continuity. Sure, I like it when Moore riffs off the big guys as in 1963 or Supreme or Tom Strong or Promethea, but he couldn’t do it without the Fantastic Four or Superman or Diana to inspire him. I don’t need a reading list of alternative choices or hippie advice on my lifestyle: I’m already being served the characters I want to see by creators I like. And I’m buying them selectively, as I always do.

Just finished the Kurt Amacker interview with Moore. I wasn’t sure if the contract was the same Moore had used before; it’s clear that it wasn’t. Mea culpa. When Moore tells Amacker that he didn’t have many friends left in the comic business, it reminded me of an old MLK saying that we tend to forget the words of our enemies and instead remember the silence of our friends. The interview makes it pretty clear that both Moore and DC failed to see the financial success that ‘Watchmen’ would become, which became the trigger for much unhappiness, from “final” relationships with Gibbons to the downfall of Dick Giordano.

You and others can continue to look at the whole kerfuffle as a reasons to stop buying DC and Marvel product. More power to you. As for me, I still think you choose to either become a hermit in the wilderness, or start being proactive about finding new ways to do the things you love to do. If you think creator rights are the issue, it seems to me a better approach might be to spend less time trolling about the issue (75 comments, yay! all of which feeds the PR machine), and instead be more like Mark Waid and spend more time exploring alternatives.

Your choice.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm

The conceit of your argument is that somehow being a “hippy” and “insisting (Moore) get a lawyer” would have provided Moore with the relief he sought. If you understood that not everything is found on Google, you’d see that the issue wasn’t about the attorney, it was about Alan Moore underestimating the success that Watchmen would become, and the failure of the contract (presumably the same one he had used in a variety of other circumstances) to protect the rights that Moore believed he had.

A lawyer would have caught that pesky line out. On the other hand, how can you criticize Moore for not knowing the industry was about to change, largely on the back of a book that didn’t exist yet when he was writing the contract?
I don’t believe DC saw that it was going to happen either – at the time, they seemed to genuinely believe they were doing something for creator rights. The problem is, they didn’t try to renegotiate with him when Watchmen changed the market – well, not until two decades later and in exchange for his blessing on the prequels.
Why is his blessing needed – don’t believe them when they say he is entitled to his opinion – they really want him to shut up. Bleeding Cool has links to an MTV page where there are video interviews with the BW creators putting up Strawmen to say why Moore is wrong. I say to view it through Bleeding Cool, because Rich points out the in correctness/hypocrisy of each interview).

Shawn:

No, I know it because I’ve read books about comic book companies, including the legal and ownership battles over Superman, Miracleman, Captain Marvel, etc.

How many of these books were written Pre-Watchmen?

What I only know from Moore is the drive and the push to have creator-owned characters at all, but in my experience those characters are SELDOM as interesting or entertaining as the corporate ones owned by the big two, and are often clear but paler imitations of the true icons. As a reader, I generally want to read about Wonder Woman and Batman, not Nemesis or Shadowhawk or whoever might have less of a history, less of a backstory, and less of a convincing continuity.

And I’d rather read Hellboy or Invincible or Zot or Saga than I would Deadpool or Azrael or Fantastic Force. And the rest of the world would rather read Asterix, Tintin, Blacksad or One Piece or Dragon Ball, so damaging and suffocating have Marvel and DC’s sheparding of the US comics industry been.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 10, 2012 at 11:34 pm

You and others can continue to look at the whole kerfuffle as a reasons to stop buying DC and Marvel product.

Have I said that? I’m not even sure I get what you mean – I’m not buying BW because it’s a step in the opposite direction I want to see comics head – ie. catering to a shrinking market and stepping on creators to do it – and I think the entire premise is shit – I wouldn’t watch a Brett Ratner prequel to The Godfather either!

I still buy Marvel and DC product, as I mentioned in a post earlier, just not that much – their behaviour since becoming super-corporate has disgusted me a bit, so I just don’t give them the benefit of the doubt – the moment a book gets crappy, it’s gone.

you think creator rights are the issue, it seems to me a better approach might be to spend less time trolling about the issue (75 comments, yay! all of which feeds the PR machine), and instead be more like Mark Waid and spend more time exploring alternatives.

Your choice.

Where have you gotten the idea that supporting creator owned books I like isn’t something I already do? I read lots and lots of books not from Marvel and DC. What I’m trying to do, is get more people to do the same, or at least understand that by buying this Before Watchmen, they are just encouraging shitty comics by not taking any responsibility for how they spend their money.
DC are on the attack at Moore for Before Watchmen – they are very annoyed that whenever they get a piece of press for Before Watchmen, either the articles author, or the comments section, get filled up with people pointing out the entire project is morally and creatively bankrupt.
(And if you must know – it’s pissing it down outside, and I’m posting online inbetween cleaning the house).

[...] CBR – Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 [...]

@FGJ “How many of these books were written Pre-Watchmen?”

Conceded, I probably read most of them in the 1990s.

@FGJ

I agree with everything you say and I think you’ve said ti all in a very intelligent and impassioned way. Here’s what it comes down to for me: despite my belief that I should not be supporting Before Watchmen, I’m just too weak-willed.

By and large, I’m a very staunchly principled person in what I do or don’t support, and I’ve always believed in the Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world” mantra. I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart and urge others not to. I boycott all reality TV, tabloids, glorification of cosmetic surgery, etc. I espouse the evils of American Idol to anyone that will listen and believe it represents the death of pop music. I root against Kentucky because John Calipari is destroying college basketball. I won’t eat veal. I won’t pay to see Michael Bay movies. I militantly recycle and don’t like supporting businesses that don’t.

But every once in a while I have a difficult time getting myself to follow my own standards, and this is one of those times. I know I shouldn’t be reading Before Watchmen and I fully understand every reason for why that is. But damnit, I want to read it, and I just can’t help myself. It’s the same way I feel about vegetarianism. I think I SHOULD be a vegetarian, but damnit, cheeseburgers just taste too fucking good and I can’t give them up.

The talent on this project and my desire to spend more time with those characters has talked me into giving the whole thing a try despite my knowing better. HOWEVER, my expectations are high and I will be pretty unforgiving if any of the series aren’t up to par. I won’t hesitate to drop any or all of them if they aren’t outstanding. But I thought the first issue of Minutemen was quite good and at the very least makes me want to read the second one.

That being said, I am happy that people like you are here to argue against Before Watchmen in intelligent ways, and maybe you’ll be able to convince someone with more control over themselves than me.

I loved Minutemen #1.

I was 17 when Watchmen came out, and in art college. I thought it was the best thing ever at the time. Finally, a comic I could show to my tutors without them sneering at me! It came at just the right time, when the media was on the cusp of finally taking comics seriously.

Then I read it again, years later, and realised it’s actually a horribly over-rated, overblown, cold, emotionless exercise in style and technique over content. I felt nothing, NOTHING, for the characters, who seem to have come straight from central casting. The females are defined solely by whether they’re a victim or someone else’s girlfriend.

Oh yes, it’s all very clever and it opened up a new kind of storytelling for the comic medium. But as a story, it’s sorely lacking. And, yeah, that ending is still nothing short of horrible. The whole thing reeks of Moore just wanting to show the world how clever he is (something he would repeat years later with his novel, which hilariously backfired when the entire literary world quite rightly panned it).

I felt more for the characters in the first issue of Minutemen than I did in the entire Watchmen story. I actually LIKED Hollis Mason in this. Not to say I disliked him in Watchmen, I simply felt nothing for him, because I was given no reason to by the writing.

And yes, Leslie Fontenelle, I DID ‘get’ the original.

Moore’s best work was back in the 80s, with V For Vendetta (a genuinely human story), and, ironically, when he was re-hashing other people’s super-hero ideas with Captain Britain, Swamp Thing, etc. He’s never been able to recapture that energy since.

As for the ‘moral’ questions? I honestly couldn’t care less. Comics fans are the last of the naive fools, still trying to hang onto the belief that this industry isn’t a business like every other. Moore was naive, DC were simply doing what a business does. Sorry, but he really should have been more careful when he signed that contract.

And his moral high ground is extremely slippery, even when you take away all the other arguments about him basing a career out of re-hashing other people’s characters, and focus on the question: what would the creators of the Lost Girls characters have thought about their treatment at Moore’s hands?

I think we can all guess that their vitriol towards Lost Girls would dwarf Moore’s vitriol towards Before Watchmen…

@Stegron

LOL – you disliked Watchmen so much, and thought it was so cold and emotionless – that now 25 years later you are enthusiastically buying new Watchmen-based comics. LOL

@Shawn Hill said

“I’m buying them selectively, as I always do”

If you’re buying them at all, then you’re not being very selective. I felt grimy just for looking at a couple preview pages of Minutemen

@abcdefg “not being selective blah blah blah”

I’ll stick to my intended meaning with the words I chose. I’ve already cleared up that nothing about this has triggered my ick factor above. I’m buying the ones that seem well done, I’m skipping the ones that seem stupid or pointless, or that concern characters I’ve seen enough of. I’ve never been a completist. I’m very excited about Silk Spectre #1 this week!

Didn’t mean to start a conversation. Just figured you’d like some input from somebody who does have a conscience

Loved the sales on this book , just did a huge re-order from Diamond today. The best thing is seeing how upset some people get in the store everytime someone buys one. My employees ring a bell , just to annoy the naysayers. Truthfully the naysayers never buy anything anyway , so there are really no lost sales. I have found the people doing the most complaining have not bought a DC comic in the last 5 years. So as a retailer THANK YOU DC , for giving my store an extra boost this summer

abcdefg , guess what? people do not care what you and your ilk care about. These comics are on their way to being a resounding success. Again THANK YOU DC , as a retailer i can not state this enough

Where is the darn LIKE button for @fancd?

It’s not a matter of conscience or failing to Google the right articles. Pro athletes went on strike last year for very similar reasons, and they didn’t get my support either. But as a comic book FAN, every dollar I spend with my LCS is a big WIN for DC, Marvel, comic book creators, and even Alan Moore, bless his heart. If people buy BEFORE WATCHMEN and like it, the chances are better that they’ll get introduced to other, less formulaic works as well. Meanwhile, the guys at my LCS work darn hard to get me books that I like to read, and unlike Moore, they’re not part of the 1% that can do whatever they want.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 12, 2012 at 5:37 am

That being said, I am happy that people like you are here to argue against Before Watchmen in intelligent ways, and maybe you’ll be able to convince someone with more control over themselves than me.

That would be nice, but I’m selfish enough to settle for kind words! Cheers big ears!

That said, I buy Superman books, I saw Avengers etc. It is hard when it’s our escapism from the world and it’s problems turn out to have problems of their own. On one hand, they should be easiest to stop with, but on the other hand, sometimes you just want to read a comic with the hero you like and it’s not like you’re trading blood diamonds!
Before Watchmen just has an extra veneer of sleaze and desperation for me. It feels like the last quarterly profit peak from the twitching corpse of DC comics. It’s a step too far for me, and the reward just wouldn’t be worth it – these books won’t compare to the original in a positive way, and it would be supporting everything thing I think is wrong with the direction the big two keep falling back on, which is reliving the past. I know superheroes are an exercise in nostalgia, but I still prefer not to have that rubbed in my face – love letters shouldn’t be three times longer than the original!
You feel you’re spending more time with the characters, to me it would feel like spending time with prostitutes dressed up as them, and I just don’t think JMS’s story about why Doc Manhattan forgot his watch will be interesting enough for me to get past it.

But hey, hats off to you for being man enough to admit you just want to read it – a lot of people are attacking Moore and his achievements, personality and the fact he speaks his mind, as a way to excuse them for reading this. Let’s just all be thankful Art Spiegelmen self-published!

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 12, 2012 at 5:46 am

And his moral high ground is extremely slippery, even when you take away all the other arguments about him basing a career out of re-hashing other people’s characters, and focus on the question: what would the creators of the Lost Girls characters have thought about their treatment at Moore’s hands?

I think we can all guess that their vitriol towards Lost Girls would dwarf Moore’s vitriol towards Before Watchmen…

They aren’t angry though, are they? They’re too busy being dead.

If they were alive, the work wouldn’t be in the public domain, and it wouldn’t occupy enough people’s brain space to make it worth using in what Moore is trying to do with his works about fiction.

Trying to equate Before Watchmen, a preqeul series ‘that counts!!!’ and is only possible due to a contact clause being put above one’s word and is being done over the original authors objections, to LoEG or Lost Girls,which use characters whose authos have been dead at least the better part of a century and were chosen because the characters are alive in readers brains, to be used in explorations of what fiction is… Silly.

Comics fans are the last of the naive fools, still trying to hang onto the belief that this industry isn’t a business like every other.

Yeah, fuck us in the eye for wanting the world to be decent.

@FunkyGreenJerusalem Who here is attacking Moore and his achievements, his personality and the fact he speaks his mind? Oh, that’s right…NO ONE.

The only people here denigrating themselves to ad hominem attacks are the ones slagging DC, JMS, and the authors of this post.

But hey, nice call-out to the heirs and estates of the original copyright holders like the Green Ormond Street Hospital. J.M. Barrie and the others may be dead, but Alan Moore et al waited until their copyright lapsed so he didn’t have to, you know, pay what was fair to a HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN.

Way to stay classy, FGJ! There’s nothing quite as intellectually honest as a hypocrite!!

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 12, 2012 at 7:05 am

Whatever guy.
I’m sure that felt like it had something to do with what I’ve written when you wrote it, but as it is, I’m not even sure what I wrote that set you off. You are talking gobbledygook.
Hang on – You didn’t actually take offense at me pointing out that dead people don’t give a shit about what Moore has done with their works because they are dead did you? Not not only do the dead not care about anything, that’s the joy of being dead, but Moore hasn’t tried to pretend his work is part of theirs has he?

And, you’re all mixed up about the kids hospital thing, unsurprisingly. They didn’t want to be associated with the book, and threatened legal action against Top Shelf, which is why they signed an agreement with Top Shelf that the book wouldn’t be sold in the UK until the copyright had expired
The hospital regularly turns a blind eye to characters being used, but weren’t happy about the idea of Lost Girls – and although it’s always been questioned if they actually own the IP, or just the right to collect royalties, Top Shelf made an agreement with them, that they wouldn’t publish till it was past the opyeight eiration. Google it, both parties were reportedly happy with the settlement.

” I tend to think this is a bit of a storm in a teacup. Not to condescend or overlook Great Ormond Street Hospital, and I mean, me and Melinda and [Top Shelf publisher] Chris Staros have got no problems with giving them a royalty or something. It’s a children’s hospital, you know? Who’s going to say no?” – Alan Moore, 2006, interview with Onion AV Club.

In my first post to you, I suggested doing the barest bit of research before trying to catch people out.
The truth will set you free, and it lessens the chance of making you look a fool.
Stay classy yourself.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 12, 2012 at 7:08 am

‘opyeight eiration’ =’ copyright expiration’ in iPad.

LOL @FBJ…I’m not surprised you think my comments are gobbledygook. The idea that Moore might choose to interpret intellectual property ownership in a way that is self-serving must fry your little mind. Selectively choosing Moore quotes about the issue doesn’t obviate the fact that Moore consciously chose to cut out J.M. Barrie’s heirs on an ancillary rights technicality, EXACTLY the same issue he had with DC.

@abcdefg “Just figured you’d like some input from somebody who does have a conscience.”

Well, A, you were wrong; and you’re participating in a conversation that already started, btw.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm

I’m not surprised you think my comments are gobbledygook. The idea that Moore might choose to interpret intellectual property ownership in a way that is self-serving must fry your little mind.

No, “Who here is attacking Moore and his achievements, his personality and the fact he speaks his mind? Oh, that’s right…NO ONE.
The only people here denigrating themselves to ad hominem attacks are the ones slagging DC, JMS, and the authors of this post.” is why I think you are talking gobbeldygook – I don’t know how that relates to me.

Selectively choosing Moore quotes about the issue doesn’t obviate the fact that Moore consciously chose to cut out J.M. Barrie’s heirs on an ancillary rights technicality, EXACTLY the same issue he had with DC.

Look it up yourself – start with The Onion AV Club article, then google around, it was well reported at the time, I even believe Brian Cronin did some stuff about it on the blog (CBR certainly did) – The Great Ormond Street Hospital didn’t want Lost Girls published because they felt it would damage the Peter Pan brand, and didn’t want to be associated with it. THEY SIGNED AN AGREEMENT with Top Shelf that it could be published post-2007 and they wouldn’t interfere.
Moore and Top Shelf have said they had no problem paying the fees, it was the hospital that had the problem.

If you want to justify buying BW, go for it. If you want to attack Alan Moore’s character, go for it. But do it with facts, not lies. Lying undercuts any point you are trying to make.

@FGJ First, let me say that I can’t wait to see the CBR Superhuman review of “Silk Spectre”. Amanda Conner’s story has a helluva lot of heart and provides a unique take on what it means to be the child of a superhero that I don’t think I’ve seen before.

And, as I’ve said multiple times before, I think everyone here respects Alan Moore for what he has done. I myself am particularly impressed by the humanitarian acts he has taken on, and the fact that he is willing to take a principled stand and not go for the easy settlement. Those are big things that few people would choose to do.

But poor, poor @FunkyGreenJerusalem, I think your problem is you really don’t understand the law. The comments you are referring to are descriptions of the settlement process, which is long after Moore made the decision to cut J.M. Barrie’s heirs, THE HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN, out of the deal.

My understanding is that at the onset, Moore asserted “…(the) hospital only holds the rights to performances of the original play, not to the individual characters.” (see link: http://is.gd/O00qUU) After all, it’s what you do from the very first time you sit down with your editor.

But, back to the quote. Moore was probably right…back in 1929, copyright laws were much simpler. It is clear from J.M. Barrie’s will that his intent was to give the full copyright of his works to the children’s hospital. But Moore’s quote clearly suggests that he thought there was a loophole since the copyright did not specifically cover the individual characters.

Fast forward to Moore’s dealings with DC: the issues, as I understand it, are that neither DC nor Moore anticipated the huge success that “Watchmen” would become. Practically speaking, the only way “a lawyer would have caught that pesky line out” is if they had knowledge of the future. As it turned out, higher-ups at Warner Bros. overrode Dick Giordano and Sue Berger and made moves in promotional goods and trade publications that perverted the intent of the original contract. They chose a loophole that was made possible by the advent of trade publications, something unforeseen at the time of the original contract. I don’t like what happened to Moore, but it’s unfair to damn Giordano, Berger, Didio, et al for the consequences of not being able to predict the future.

The JM Barrie grant didn’t anticipate that future copyrights would need to be applied for individual characters. Likewise,the Moore contract didn’t anticipate that trade publications could be used to prevent reversion.

In both situations, old contracts and the intent behind them were rendered obsolete by newer interpretations of intellectual property. I know you would like to believe that a better lawyer could have anticipated it, but that’s where your naivete fails you. Neither Moore nor J.M. Barrie had a crystal ball that could have predicted the exact legal nuance that would have protected their interests.

Going forward? I think the right thing to do is to use Kickstarter or Quora to crowdsource a model creator contract, a document that enables any artist, writer or colorist to protect their interests if they can’t afford an attorney. But please stop calling me a liar unless I actually tell a lie.

Er, sorry, I meant “Karen” Berger, not “Sue” Berger. Sue Berger is a friend of mine. Karen Berger is the Executive Editor for Vertigo.

LOL darn iPad!! If only it were easier to edit!!

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