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Wait, What? Ep. 74: Who Before Watches the Before Watchmen?

Jeff Lester


I hope you have your calendar cleared until 2014, because that’s how long it’s going to take before Graeme and I get to answering all your questions from this thread.

Honestly, how were we to know Before Watchmen was going to launched the day before we were scheduled to talk?  As the astute listener may note, we were pretty reluctant to launch into the topic and how clearly tried to get it out of our system beforehand…but like one of those county fair snacks gone bad, it keeps finding new and horrible ways to re-surge and expel itself.

So join us, won’t you, for Wait, What? Ep. 74?  The first eighty minutes is Graeme and I talking Watchmen, Before Watchmen, Multiversity, Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner, Len Wein, John Higgins, Dave Gibbons and the mighty sleeveless one himself, Alan Moore.

Then for the next fifty or so, we answer your questions.  Five of them.  But in the course of doing so, we also manage to gas on about Batman: Leviathan, Mike Baron and Steve Rude’s Nexus, Jack Kirby’s Machine Man, books we regret recommending, The Drops of God, Earth X, Fantastic Four, Micronauts, Chris Claremont’s last storyline on Uncanny X-Men, the Image anniversary, and more.

An infernal pact was made and sanctified with waffles to bring you the latest episode on iTunes, but an emergent loophole allowed us to also share it with you here and now:

Wait, What? Ep. 74: Who Befores Watches The Before Watchmen?

We hope you enjoy, and as always, thanks for listening!

108 Responses to “ Wait, What? Ep. 74: Who Before Watches the Before Watchmen? ”

  1. Umm.. I thought Alan Moore only wore white suits. Eddie Campbell wouldn’t lie to me.

    Those Machine Man books make almost no sense. I’ve read them.

  2. Watchmen gotta be the most overrated single piece of genre fiction ever.

    These prequels will correct that somewhat, which is a positive side effect i guess.

  3. Graeme’s read on the end of Watchmen is a perfect metaphor for DC’s turnaround of late.


  4. I’m confused as to why Watchmen needs to have optimism in order to be considered a masterpiece. There are many great works that are considered masterpieces that have little optimism. I think what matters is whether the work shows great insight into and provokes discussion about the human condition.

    I think the idea that a book has to make you feel good about yourself and your life is a form of reader narcissism.

  5. There’s a part of me that wants to think Cooke is making an extraordinarily clever meta-joke in citing what’s essentially Steve Ditko’s concept of art — that art has an objective purpose in glorifying the best of the human condition, promoting heroism and, yes, optimism — as the crucial lacking element for a work that functions primarily as a criticism of the classical modes of superheroism, Ditko’s unique spin in particular… but I think it’s more of a case of Cooke simply holding softer but similar values.

  6. I’m still listening, so I may have more comments later, but …

    I know it’s really just meta-commentary, but there’s nothing I find more tiresome in podcast conversation than listening to the ‘casters bemoan their inability to “stay on topic.” We, the listeners, don’t control the edit button: you do. If you’re truly troubled, edit your digressions out, and stretch your recording time – no matter how long it takes – to fit your self-imposed criteria. Personally, I don’t care if you only answer a single question you solicited: your pod, your control. What I am interested in is what’s on your mind and how you express that in the dialogue. I spent the last hour-plus listening to you discuss the Before Watchmen, and wasn’t looking at my watch. I was interested.

    Just keep calm & carry on.

    PS – I’m hearing a big hum during the podcast. Is it my system or is it in the recording?

  7. Yes, please feel free to focus on a hot topic of the day if a major story comes along, and not worry about breaking up the Gerber-and-waffles fiesta you may have promised in more boring times.

  8. @Jim C: Yeah, the hum is driving me crazy. Levellator was more or less wiping it out but now that Graeme’s got better recording equipment, it’s back. The headset I got does some weird feedbacky thing I can’t easily filter out…so it’s probably time for a new one.

  9. Jeff,
    Not to be selfish, but if it’s you, I’ll stop worrying. I just didn’t want it to be me!

  10. Minor note: John Higgins actually has explored creator-owned work. He did a series with Jamie Delano called WORLD WITHOUT END and I believe went solo on RAZORJACK.

  11. The story of the Watchmen is not interesting. A character dies and the other characters try to find out who is killing off “Superheroes.” The ending has one of the heroes as the ultimate villain and we get a final showdown. Even the conclusion is a rip off of an Outer Limits episode.

    There’s nothing really innovative about it. When it first came out, people kept on stating how this is basically ripping off Marvel’s Squadron Supreme, another popular book that came out at the time.

    What was innovative about this story was the story telling and the use of motifs:

    1. The watches in various panels counting down to midnight as the story progressed

    2. The repeated motif of the Hiroshima Lovers that are echoed throughout the story.

    3. The often half-written “Who Watches the Watchmen” graffiti around New York

    4. The background New York characters and the background of New York that interact with supporting characters leading into the creshendo scene that destorys New York.

    5. The dual narratives of the Pirate Comics bleeding into the actual storyline.

    6. The text pieces in the back that add or comment on the narrative in the comics.

    7. The use of quotes as titles and then using the whole quotes in the end that echo the events in the series

    8. The effective use of the 8-panel grid that allows you to really control movement and pacing as well as creating “the mirror” scenes in issue 5 where the first 16 pages are echoed in the last 16 pages.

    9. The use of similar flashbacks from different perspectives in order to paint the whole picture of the incident (this is also why I think the prequels are not necessary: the whole thing is that we aren’t sure what happened in the past. If we’re told through these flashbacks what happened in the past, that defeats the whole purpose of the unreliable narrators telling you the story. It would be like a prequel to Chinatown where we have Evelyn Cross being raped by her father, Noah. It ruins the whole story to read the prequel. This is also why Alan Moore was probably going to a Minutemen story so you could do something with completely different characters).


    These are the things people should’ve taken away from Watchmen. You can see some people learned this lesson. Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch pays a loving homage to Watchmen in his Jenny Sparks issue that really evokes the style and colors of Watchmen. Ed Brubkaer does Warren Ellis one better in his last Incognito issue where examines criminals in the same way Moore examined heroes and creating an almost mirror image of the Rorsearch goes to jail issue of Watchmen. Keith Giffen’s V4 Legion of Superheroes used the 9-panel grid as well as the use of text pieces to build suspense and to hint about narratives that would be coming in the story. Alex Robinson’s Tricked really takes the lesson of intertwining-yet-independent character narratives/dual narratives of different stories that weave into a culmination that ends in a tragedy. JH Williams’ work (from even before his Promethea work with Alan Moore) was very inspired by the design and use of color in Watchmen to display emotion, motifs, and narrative threads.

    I just wish people took away the design lesson of Watchmen than the lesson of “These Characters are Cool.” They aren’t cool. The only reason they’re interesting is the intricate way they used motifs to echo flashbacks and flash-forwards. The important thing in Watchmen isn’t the story, but the way the story is told. If more people figured out the motifs and created new tricks from what Watchmen pioneered then we’d have a richer medium.

  12. And just one more thing, I think the reason they’re putting it out is because of the summer push. If they’re not going to have a crossover, they’re going to put out Watchmen so they don’t lose the numbers to Marvel’s Avengers/X-Men.

  13. To me story/plot is (almost) everything.

    All this talk about techniques and motifs is like someone buying a car for its awesome polish, no matter that the engine is second rate.

    And a who-dunnit that ends with a giant paper-mache squid averting ww3 is clearly not a first rate story.

  14. To me story/plot is (almost) everything.

    All this talk about techniques and motifs is like someone buying a car for its awesome polish, no matter that the engine is second rate.

    Unless you happen to be one of those people who thinks story/plot is the awesome polish and the techniques, motifs and similar things are the engine. Which isn’t that rare a worldview considering that since the beginning of the invention of the movie the director has always had considerably more status than the writer.

  15. By the way mckracken, I’m a story/plot guy myself. It’s why I can’t enjoy a Loeb story no matter who draws it or why I hated The Dark Knight movie. But I do realize when dealing with visual media there are many people who don’t place same weight on story/plot.

  16. @McKracken: I’m a story/plot guy too. But in comics, it is not about the words and script. Its about how the story is told with the art/word hybrid. Let’s take the squid for example. To build up the squid, we have the Pirate Comics bullpen text piece that discusses the what happened to a well-known horror artist. We have the Comedian’s confessional in front of Moloch that only Rorsharch hears in the end. We have this minor narrative of the artist in a commune who eventually gets killed when his ocean liner is destroyed. What is interesting artistically is how the narrative comes together visually with this fade to whiteness.

    And in defense of the squid, what is neat about the squid is that we see everyone that we’ve been following in New York in the crowd scene, dead. We also get a point where the 9-panel grid is broken completely. When Dr. Manhattan comes down, that’s when he begins to break the 9-panel grid whereas everyone else is still stuck in the 9-panel grid. This is on purpose to illustrate Dr. Manhattan’s new found knowledge as well as his ability to not know what happens next, just like the reader.

    I know, I know. This is very heady and technical, but it is a way for the visual to tell and reinforce the overall narrative of the story.

  17. oh and the polish of this one is overly glossy and blinding at times:

    to me..for instance, the image then text or text then image analogues/juxtapositions (which usually happened over a page turn) were interesting at first but turned into a tedious college level exercise by the fifth time.

    I’d rather Moore was famous for “From Hell”, which is a much stronger read.

  18. I think a big thing that people seem to be missing in this discussion (not particularly here but online and on twitter in general) is that this may be a small part of a much bigger picture. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. I think the main purpose of this is not so much the sale of these particular miniseries but rather to test the waters in the media and in the market to see if they can get away with the next step, the true potential endgame: incorporating these characters into the New 52, either as an alternate earth title or in the mainstream Earth-1 universe.

  19. Great episode, gentlemen. I don’t have much time to comment right now – though, regarding why Watchmen is important: Gary, above, hit the nail on the head.

    As to the “squid,” (jumping off comments in the thread) was it so reviled and ridiculed when the book initially came out, or is this just the manner in which educated contemporaries choose to discuss the shortcomings of the book? Seems too easy, and it also appears to allow those arguing not to bother giving any reasons – they just say “the squid was dumb” and leave it at that. Argument = fail.

    And, for Jeff and Graeme, regarding their desire for a Chris Claremont documentary: http://www.sequart.org/magazine/6880/new-documentary-film-comics-in-focus-chris-claremonts-x-men/

    From the same people who brought us the Morrison and Ellis documentaries.


  20. I’m enjoying your conversation, though I’m not done with it. I don’t really agree with everything (the only name I’m okay with seeing in the creator list is Len Wein– if anyone’s going to get some money, at least it’s Len Wein, of all those people). But you guys sure cover a lot of ground and a wide range of topics and reactions. It’s fun to listen to. I’m curious to hear the names that would be persuasive to Jeff to pick these up, but. Thanks.

    Apropos of absolutely nothing you guys are talking about, or maybe apropos of “this brings out the worst in everyone”:

    The thing that’s been striking me as funny these last couple days are the arguments being made by comic creators that the Watchmen sequels are acceptable because “Watchmen isn’t sacred.” The word sacred’s come up more than once by a range of creators dismissing complaints, including I know one major DC writer not involved in any of these books and a creator owned artist. Comic creators with no way of benefiting from any of this, saying “Watchmen isn’t sacred.” DC and it’s top talent are now inherently taking a position that authors AREN’t sacred, no single book is sacred, authors aren’t important, that what’s important is characters, and the only sacred thing is not works of authorship but “revitalizing” characters, and you should buy these comics because its author isn’t the one who truly matters.

    What’s striking to me about that is it’s a WEEK, if not days after the piracy argument– comic creators talking about how piracy is WRONG hither and dither. The thrust of which was “don’t pirate because these comics have AUTHORS, and you should respect that fact. Comics don’t just write themselves, and you should buy comics because that’s how authors make their living.”

    Which… huh? If authors don’t matter, then how can you argue fans shouldn’t steal comics because of their authors? How are all comics sacred, one week and no comic is sacred, the next? Don’t comics have to pick one at some point? Or, what, is the rule going to be comics are sacred when readers want to steal them from their authors, but not when comic creators want to steal them from other authors? “Don’t steal Watchmen– that’s the Murder She Wrote guy’s job.”

    So… I’m pretty sure we’re all allowed to steal comics now. 2:05 in this video basically.

    I don’t know. I’m probably completely out in the rain alone on this one, but once I noticed the timing, I thought maybe there was kind of a funny irony there. Maybe a cute something? I don’t know. Just going to throw that out there.

  21. I don’t recall any complaints about the squid back in the day. I was just excited as hell to read the ending, and loved it. For the technique as well as the story.

    @Abhay- That’s an excellent point to bring up, and I hope more people will think that way when pirating content.
    Except.. well piracy is illegal. Working on Beyond Watchmen is at most immoral.

    And while I’m typing, just to throw this question out there- Straczynski- incapable of doing acceptable work, or just incompetent?

  22. @Abhay Much as I admire tying together disparate statements in order to take pot-shots at people that’s really reaching.

    Whatever the rights and wrongs of the deal Watchmen is
    owned by DC and they can do what they want with it. The idea that DC as a company shouldn’t be allowed to hire new people to work on the properties it owns because some of them are so very special is a nonsense. Never mind the legalities, I dont accept on a creative level that any work of fiction is so ‘sacred’ that it is impossible for another artist to do something worthwhile with it.

    Piracy meanwhile (at least from the perspective of the statements you mention) threatens the act of creation itself. Alan Moore got paid to produce Watchmen. For there to be a Watchmen in a form we recognize something like DC has to exist in order to fund it. Piracy threatens that and it’s a completely legitimate and separate argument for creators and publishers to stand up and say so.

    One is an argument about what we should do with nice things. The other is about what we have to invest to get them in the first place.

  23. @Abhay: You’re absolutely right about the rich irony in this… I was thinking something similar, but you kinda nailed it.

    And, @Siythe, I think you’re jumping to certain conclusions… Just because money passes hands doesn’t necessarily mean somebody has a legal or moral right to a creator’s intellectual property lock, stock & barrel. There are many shades of ownership to intellectual property, just as there is with physical property. You can lease, rent or buy physical property. You can own the building and the area, but not the mineral rights beneath it — or the airspace above it. NOBODY, as far as I know, has read the WATCHMEN contracts besides DC, Alan Moore and the respective attorneys. Therefore, nobody knows the exact language of the copyright assignations — nor can we judge exactly what rights Moore gave up, and if has a right to feel deceived by the language of the contract. Moore has long claimed that the contract states that the rights to the work revert to him and Gibbons if/when the work ever goes out of print. DC has made sure it NEVER goes out of print — which, ironically, may have helped WATCHMEN attain its cultural prominence through its persistent availability while other “great” comics works have faded from memory partly due to inconsistent availability.

    “Piracy…threatens the act of creation itself.” No, piracy threatens PROFIT. In many cases, the profits from the long-term exploitation of a work have been utterly divorced from the creator’s benefit. There are countless examples of piracy that have no impact on the actual creators’ profit or well-being because ALL of the right and ALL of the profits from legitimate sales go to a corporate copyright holder.

    What DOES threaten the act of creation is a system that allows a few to benefit from exploiting creators, and from tirelessly “reinventing,” “rebooting” and “reimagining” properties they already own or control. ORIGINAL creation ends up happening on the sidelines — struggling to gain attention without capital to finance its creations, without major marketing pushes.

    Indeed, since Alan Moore’s falling out with DC, he did not stop CREATING… but many of his projects faltered and fumbled towards completion in part because of money woes (e.g., FROM HELL and LOST GIRLS).

  24. Then there’s this:

    “Any screenwriter who thinks he loses more money to piracy than to Hollywood studio accounting is a child.”



  25. I bet Len Wein was like, “No way I’m doing that!” right up until he remembered the eleven billion dollars Marvel has generated with Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, et al. Also, that his house had burned down.

  26. “Much as I admire tying together disparate statements in order to take pot-shots at people that’s really reaching.”

    I just really, really enjoy the pot-shot part though!!

    For example: I don’t know if I believe Brian Azzarello will be able to solve the inherent challenge of doing a prequel to a work filled with flashbacks, as he’ll have to tell a story that didn’t matter enough to those characters enough for them to bother to remember when we watched them remember the key moments of their life, but I do believe that he will at least find a way to write a bunch of black stereotypes that make me feel really uncomfortable.


    (Sorry– your comment was really great and thoughtful, and I, on the other hand, am an idiot).

    “The idea that DC as a company shouldn’t be allowed to hire new people to work on the properties it owns because some of them are so very special is a nonsense”

    So we can put you down for Sandman: The Reawakening and Calvin & Hobbes: Aftermath? Sweet– I bet Adam Hughes does a wonderful job drawing big tits on Susie. No, I mean, I understand your point, but it’s too much for me to agree to– I’m just not built to agree that none of this is special. Sure, DC is allowed to do whatever. DC is ALLOWED to make a Superman comic where Superman rapes a bunch of children. Instead, they published Superman: Grounded. Which was much, much worse than my child-rape idea. Nobody wins!


    (Again I’m very sorry. You deserve a better and more thoughtful response. It’s just been a long day).

    “I dont accept on a creative level that any work of fiction is so ‘sacred’ that it is impossible for another artist to do something worthwhile with it.”

    I think maybe it’s okay for you or I to say there aren’t any sacred comics. But gee, you don’t think it’s at all weird that people who work in the comic business are saying that…? These are people who are giving the best years their lives to this thing and they’re like, “Nah, it’s all shit and muck and mud, wrapped in twigs. Nothing means anything! There is no God! Mazel-tov to the abyss!” Does that not strike you as ice cold how none of these people believe they’re a part of any enterprise greater than themselves?

    “One is an argument about what we should do with nice things. The other is about what we have to invest to get them in the first place.”

    I appreciate what you’re saying. Sorry for the lame jokes. I suppose I have a hard time because … the latter is an argument about process while the former is an argument about the products of the process. Basically, we have a spiritual duty to safeguard the invaluable system that creates a worthless product for a world that doesn’t believe in art…? Protect the embryo, but as soon as that baby’s out of the womb, let’s electrocute that son bitch…? It’s just all weird to me. But your point is logically sound…

    I really truly do think Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Sandman: The Reawakening’s about 5 years away, and I’m hoping it’s as fun as this has been for me.

  27. Transmetropolitan Too: The Next Day

    Preacher of Infinite Earths

    Y 2099: The Last Man of The Future!

    Sin Municipality


    Sure, why not? Let’s make some fucking cash, right? These stories are only getting less relevant and everyone knows that the best way to make something relevant again is by making a sequel to that thing because there’s never been a horribly conceived sequel ever made in any format. Fertile storytelling soil. Can’t wait for the Before Watchmen movies.

  28. Damn Abhay, While I was working on mine you beat me by two minutes with “Sandman: The Reawakening and Calvin & Hobbes: Aftermath”? Fuck!

  29. Additional items from the Wrought Irony Dept:

    “Brian Azzarello, a comics author… said he expected an initial wave of resistance because ‘a lot of comic readers don’t like new things.'”


    Yes, because what could be “newer” than a retread of a 25-year-old comic-book?

  30. Geoff Johns writting Sandman? Hmmm. That would actually be an improvement over Gaiman.

  31. re: the Claremont discussion and Graeme saying, “They sided with Jim Lee and Jim Lee was gone within a year.”

    Except Bob Harras was a Wildstorm editor starting in 2001 (after driving Marvel into the ground during the pre-bankruptcy era with whathisname, Ellen Barkin’s husband) and is now the editor-in-chief at DC, right? Wasn’t he the one who threw Claremont under the bus after Claremont had spent 16 years building that company their biggest franchise, and arguably created the language of modern mainstream comics…? As of today, as of this moment, Harras arguably made the smart play, and Jim Lee arguably repaid that debt in full for more than a decade. An ugly play, but the smart play.

    Anyways, it’s comics so no one really cares/cared.

  32. @Steve D I’m not trying to make a moral judgement. I just dont think DC have breached contract with Moore. I draw that conculsion based on the lack of any succesful legal action against them. That may be a bad way to do so, there are many reasons law suits can fail or not even begin, but in a case where we havent seen the details of the contract it seens like a hugely important point.

    I also dont think DC keept Watchmen in print solely to keep the rights. They did so because it consistantly made money. Rightly or wrongly it became the most famous comic book ever created and the only time they were willing to give the rights to that away was on the condition Moore produce something that potentially might replace it. (OT but to refer back to the podcast for me that does in fact mitigate a lot of the sin) Boo hiss and all that but the majority of art requires a business framework in order to be comercially successful. The price of interacting with that business is that you and your work may well be treated like a comodity. Not nice for Alan Moore and unfair to Alan Morre (though lets not forget he did get paid) but not unethical practice.

    “No, piracy threatens PROFIT” Yes piracy threatens profit. Without profit the publishing company goes out of business. Without the publishing company no one pays creators to, yes you guessed it, create and I dont get to read Watchmen. *insert Lion King song here* I dont think piracy always threatens creators profits directly but I do think it threatens the bottom line of the company paying them. I also think nothing exists in a vacuum. The creative rut you talk about is part of an attempt to protect profits in a shrinking market. They bet on known brands and as you say push new properties to the sidelines. And if you think sales lost to piracy dont factor into that equation then your kidding yourself.

    “Any screenwriter who thinks he loses more money to piracy than to Hollywood studio accounting is a child.”


    There’s a whole ton of reasons screenwriting for Hollywood and Comic writing for DC and Marvel arent the same thing at all but I’m not going to go into that. To tackle the larger point they are two seperate problems. Each should certainly be dealt with but the existance of one doesnt mean the other isnt a factor. Esspecially not in an industry as marginal as comics.

  33. Mckracken – you are a troll and I claim my $5.

    Len Wein has done some of his own creator-owned work, back in the day. For example, he wrote an epic poem that Howard Chaykin illustrated that appeared in the December 1977 issue of Heavy Metal. (The poem isn’t that great, but the Chaykin pages are amazing.)

  34. RE: Hollywood accounting, Siythe: years ago I worked at a gas station and a Hollywood film crew came to town. The guy in charge of filling up the gas tanks that would fuel the vehicles and battery generators and whatnot asked me if I would generate a fake receipt for $200 on top of what he actually bought for a $20 kickdown. Thinking it a one time deal I figured why not and complied. Then he came in 3 times a day over the next 3 days asking for the same. These weren’t actual register receipts with dates and times and gallons but untraceable manually swiped credit card receipts with the amounts written in. I started asking him if we should vary the amounts to make it look better and he said no, they’re not going to look at it that closely. I’m not exactly proud of this little endeavor, but I learned something about why the budgets of major Hollywood productions often surpass the GDP of Third World countries. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll comment on the actual podcast which was great.

  35. @Abhay “So we can put you down for Sandman: The Reawakening and Calvin & Hobbes: Aftermath? Sweet–”

    While I’m not entierly certain that Sandman: The Awakening of Calvin and Hobbes to the Child Rape of Superman by Big Tits Suzie is right direction to take those characters I’d certainly be willing to give it a try. But then I thought Dark Knight Strikes Again would be good just because it was written but the same guy who did Dark Knight returns so what do I know?

    I just dont recognize the line that seems to have been drawn where some things are too special to touch while other lesser(?) works are fine to play with.

    Its not that none of these books are special it’s that either the principle applies to all of the catalogue or it’s not worth a damn. Either Watchmen and Sandman are fair game for new writers to try their hand at along with everything else or the only comics we get are those writen by or signed off and blessed by the people who created them. Which may well be a perfectly acceptable for you but it means I dont get to read Waid’s Daredevil this month so to hell with that.

    “Does that not strike you as ice cold how none of these people believe they’re a part of any enterprise greater than themselves?”

    These people who have spent their careers working on characers created by others and had other people work on theirs? Not really no, but then I’m not framing the statement the way you are. Not thinking Watchmen is sacred and/or untouchable doesnt automatically mean they dont respect the story being told or the craft used to tell it. At best it means they believe they have something else to contribute to it. At worst it means they want to pay the mortgage. Either way it is now and always has been the nature of the industry they work in and if they hadnt accepted that years ago they’d have quit.

    “Basically, we have a spiritual duty to safeguard the invaluable system that creates a worthless product for a world that doesn’t believe in art…?”

    Or we accept that the system that is about to spew out Watchmen Begins is the same one which produced Watchmen in the first place. We recongise that the pragmatic commercialism at the heart of this project is the foundation that will allow another work art to be created. That it isnt an either or proposition between the sainted artist and the dirty little money grubbing executive but a collaberation between the two.

    The other option of course is that nothing of worth is produced by the system at all and it should all be burnt to thr ground. But if thats the contention why bother reading?

  36. @ James Woodward Yeah I have no problem believing Hollywood be crazy. Too crazy for the screenwriter and comics writer jobs to be directly comparable in anything but general terms.

  37. Theoretical Watchmen creators who would have overwhelmed any sort of logical reasoning, in order from most reasonable to most ridiculous:

    Raphael Grampa
    Frank Quietly (particularly if he took those crazy techniques from We3 to something involving Dr. Manhattan)
    Rob Leifeld
    Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon
    Brandon Graeme
    Mark Millar (isn’t Watchmen the source of his odd fascination with numbers?)
    Jeff Smith
    Chris Ware
    Stan Lee
    Graeme Macmillan
    Jeff Lester (I’m picturing Rorschach developing an insane waffle fascination)
    Me (As much as I’m against this project, I’d still jump at the chance to earn that sort of crazy money)

  38. @Siythe: I think one major point regarding Watchmen (which may have been brought up in Jeff and Graeme’s discussion, I believe; though, if not, I read it somewhere recently) isn’t so much that it is “sacred,” but that it – unlike your Mark Waid Daredevil example above – was never intended to be an open-ended series. This was conceived as a finite series, period. Daredevil, Superman, Wonder Woman, et al. were conceived as comics that could tell endless narratives, if the sales and the creativity was there.


  39. @Siythe

    While I dont disagree with most of what you said, I think the argument that ‘because the current system has produced good work means that it is ok’ is a flawed one.

    Theoretically those same creators who produced good work in the current system would be producing equally good work and keeping more rights to their work in a different system.

    Of course, you could argue about this specifics of this til the cows come home. And ultimately you’re never going to convince fanboys out of reading it. :\

  40. I never heard anyone complain about “the squid” until the movie said they weren’t going to have it. It seemed to me people were so excited about the movie they were willing to say, “screw it, none of that matters if we get to see Rorschach running around and saying ‘Hrm.'” And since it was “agreed” that “the squid” wasn’t important enough to be in the movie it wasn’t good and therefore the book was flawed.

  41. “This was conceived as a finite series, period.”

    Yeah, I think we kind of need to stop pretending that Moore or anyone really knew WATCHMEN was going to be WATCHMEN. This was just another project that happened to turn into a critical masterpiece and one of the ground-breaking commercial hits of comic history.


  42. I’ve only listened to the first hour or so but once again many thanks for the feathery pleasure of your voices on my ears!

    Stand-outs o far have been:

    1) Jeff Lester:”…which means DC weren’t really “giving” Moore the rights back they were in fact asking him to do something they knew he wouldn’t do in return.”
    Graeme McMillan: “I see. I understand now. But…but if DC were willing to give Moore the rights back then…then it’s all okay! We’re saved! I did it! I DID IT!”
    Jeff Lester: “No, the thing with the offer was…”
    (Repeat and repeat!)
    I think we can all agree Mr. Jeff Lester is a very patient man and Mr. Graeme McMillan is not easily swayed.

    2) Mr Jeff Lester delightfully describing Alan Moore as having “kept himself busy”. Thus conjuring up the image of The Magus as being like a retired Colonel who paints lead miniatures in his shed or takes in his neighbours ironing. Albeit one who would one day, without explanation or warning, refuse to answer the door and just glare at you out of the conservatory window until you were forced to return home without your ironing but with a very strong sense that you had done something very, very wrong in some horribly final way.

    I’m not being sarcastic either, I liked those bits!

    As for the squid, I don’t get the hate. It isn’t rubber for a start; it’s been manufactured to actually be capable of life if it had that miraculous spark. But for the plan to work it doesn’t need life so the R&D boys get to save a few quid there. On the screens viewed by “The Villain” I’m sure The Outer Limits can be glimpsed. Which is very clever, I think. Did Alan moore get the idea from TOL or did “The Villain” or both? Also, how come that episode of TOL isn’t derided and castigated because it has a “rubber squid” in it? Are TOL fans more easily pleased? Fools! Me, I think the plan is awesome; it’s all about that “The Bigger The Lie…” thing and, even better, after huffing and puffing to inject some measure of realism into an unrealistic genre the whole thing climaxes with something so unrealistic it sticks in the craw of the very fans of that unrealistic genre. Y’know I might think it’s a little bit funny as well. Yeah, I’m okay about the squid.

  43. @RM Rhodes: Thanks for the link. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that HVC work before. Cool beans!

  44. Len Wein and Herb Trimpe designed the Wolverine to have a limited, finite run. Two issues of Incredible Hulk. They had a beggining, a middle and an end. It was self-conatined storytelling and doesn’t need additional backstory.

    Everything since then has been blantantly disrepectful of their creative intent.

  45. I’m not a huge Watchmen fan, it’s something I respect but don’t love, so I have less of an emotional stake in any of this than most of you seem to.

    But just for fun, I’ll be the Evil Capitalist PigDog and put up some defense of the publishers, since everyone seems to rush to the defense of the poor helpless creators.

    Everyone seems to forget that the publisher pays the creators up front for their work, and they finance the production, marketing, and distribution that puts the stuff in our sweaty little hands. There’s a lot more to it than just Alan Moore putting words on paper, as important as that obviously is.

    And after all that, the publishers have no guarantee that anyone will buy even one single copy, especially of something weird like Watchmen. Most of the stuff they finance like this goes nowhere (anyone remember Camelot 3000?), and it’s only after they’ve taken all the risk that anything becomes a phenomenon like Watchmen. Was Alan Moore obligated to give his money back if Watchmen didn’t sell? I doubt it. He got paid either way. His risk was minimal.

    In fact, the publishers need to make big money on stuff like Watchmen to make their business model work at all, given that tons of stuff they make doesn’t even recoup its costs. If they don’t have a big upside potential, it’s not worth the risk of the downside (which is often).

    It’s easy for us to look at the sales records of Watchmen, which are now known!, and decry the ‘greed’ of the publisher. But how many of us, BEFORE the fact, would have risked our own money to publish and distribute Watchmen? Not many, I’d wager. And if any of you answer ‘yes’: then why haven’t you started your own comic company?

  46. “Was Alan Moore obligated to give his money back if Watchmen didn’t sell? I doubt it. He got paid either way. His risk was minimal.”

    Wow, the John “Cogburn” Byrne “creator wrongs” argument? Bad in the 1980s, bad now. Why can’t Alan Moore just rejoice in being a cog in the machine that is DC?

  47. @Chris Brown–it wasn’t like Alan Moore was a complete unknown when Watchmen was published, his run on Swamp Thing turned it into a commercial viable property. While DC could not have predicted that the runaway success Watchmen became, I am sure the felt it was a safe bet to recoup their investment.

  48. @Steve D

    You really have to knock it off with the inteligent posts. I’m beginning to suspect you’re a lawyer. That and superhero readers don’t care about stuff like morals as long as they get their IPs. They’re kinda like super villains that way.


    I agree with you 100%. I go further than you, though. Not only has the timing of Before Watchmen and the piracy argument struck me as strange, I now can’t see anything wrong with piracy. Because if these guys don’t care, then why the Hell should we?

    @John K

    I think it’s you, Abhay, Steve D, and me on the “this doesn’t give me the moral warm fuzzies” train car.

  49. @BobH:
    Kind of a troll-y response. Got anything substantive to say?

    That factoid changes nothing.

  50. Jesus Christ. Look what you lads have brought on yourselves. Can you handle it?

    What would Tim Tebow do?

  51. Oh, and thanks to Chris Brown for sticking up for those poor defenseless, helpless publishers. God only knows they need it.

  52. Chris Brown: “But how many of us, BEFORE the fact, would have risked our own money to publish and distribute Watchmen? Not many, I’d wager. And if any of you answer ‘yes’: then why haven’t you started your own comic company?

    Answer: Unless you were born into wealth (like the rare 1% of us), I would imagine the rest of us (the 99%) are spending our money on our mortgages, grocery bills, utility bills, gasoline, college educations and other bank loans needed to survive in this life. Whatever money I had left over, after charitable contributions, I suspect I would not invest in Watchmen. Especially since Time Warner owned all the rights and would preclude me from investing in the movie.

    I haven’t started my own comic company for the same reason you haven’t. You asshole.

  53. Chris Brown: But just for fun, I’ll be the Evil Capitalist PigDog and put up some defense of the publishers, since everyone seems to rush to the defense of the poor helpless creators.

    How generous of you to understand and commiserate with the capitalist pig dogs.

  54. @ Chris Hero- Can’t see anything wrong with piracy? How about that it’s illegal? The cost just to defend yourself against a charge (baseless or not) is thousands of dollars, to say nothing of what it would cost if they find you guilty.

    Yes, I know we all may think we are safe and it’s not a thing anyone cares to file charges on. And that’s true. Until it’s not, and the postman is asking you to sign for the letter from the court.

    Let’s not forget that piracy is not just a moral decision.

  55. If I was a dictator, I would be a benevolent dictator, and issue each and every one of you assholes a swift kick in the ass.

  56. @Chris Brown: I’m pretty sure no one is arguing that the publisher should have no return on their investment. Even I, and I’m no economist, recognise there’s not much incentive there for investment without the possibility of profit. I think the problem most people have here (those that have a problem) is with DC’s treatment of this particular creator in this particular case.

    Call me a big old capitalist lickspittle but I’m okay (I really am!) with DC getting a big old slice of the revenue from the pie baked from Alan Moore’s (and Dave Gibbons’ & John Higgins’) tasty recipe! I’m not okay with the publisher holding the recipe out to Alan Moore and then snatching it back, making money from merchandising featuring the pie by claiming they are “promotional” and thus cutting the creators out, then spending the next twenty odd years ringing Moore up to ask if he has any more recipes, even going so far at one point as to buy out the bakery he’s currently working at, and then holding out the recipe again and telling him he can have it if he just gives up his soul (because really, what good is it doing for him? Can he even see it? Can he spend it? A soul; what good is that!? We are modern men are we not?) before finally using his recipe to fuel a franchise in which the steak of the original is replaced by mechanically recovered connective tissue.

    I guess that’s more my problem. If corporations are people (and they aren’t. Poke a corporation in the eye. Go on! See.) judging by DC’s actions in this case I think Alan Moore would have grounds for a restraining order at least.

    I don’t understand why there is such resistance to treating creators equitably. Sticks are okay for running chain gangs but creative people are more responsive to carrots. A mainstream genre comics industry that depends on creativity and originality which effectively punishes those qualities would end up with…well, what we have now; Avengers Vs X-Men! WATCHMEN2! Creators so busy caretaking their own careers and planning their exit strategy into TV that they leave behind a trail of short term hits and long term sh*t. Well, good luck exploiting and surviving off the back catalogue of the last decade DC and Marvel. Jolly good luck with that!

    Also, Alan Moore gets a lot of stick for being a nutcase because he has a beard and doesn’t just sit at home watching TV in his shirt and jeans but I think if I had had to put up with all the stuff he’s had to put up with regarding WATCHMEN (and the rest!) I’d be lucky if I just ended up worshipping a sock in a basement. Is he perfect? No. But, c’mon, you could build battleships out of the iron in that guy’s soul. Okay, they wouldn’t be very good battleships because they’d tend to sail off and do their own thing but they would take some hammering before they sank.

  57. @Chris Beckett – This is where I run in to trouble following the moral logic. Yes DD was created as an ongoing character but he has been changed massively since his original conception. I’m pretty sure Stan Lee doesnt give a damn but what if Bill Everet had done. What if he was still alive (and at this point I realised DD may not be the best example to use) and was really angry that a character he helped create is now a callous bastard who keeps going out with women despite the fact he knows it means they will inevitably end up insane or dead because of him?

    If the argument is that the wishes of a characters/settings creator should still impact on what is allowed to be done to them despite the rights being sold then you dont get to limit it to special cases. Its either a principle you believe in or its not.

    @Dave Clarke – I agree its a flawed system and I dont think its ok either. I do however think it’s necessary in one form or another. As long as a busniess is required it must be allowed to make decisions based on economics not vague notions of being nice to everyone. I like the idea of creator owned companies but I dont see a viable alternative to Marvel and DC out there.

    Are the actions of comics publishers to be any worse than those of movie and tv companies? I dont think so (and if I’m wrong please someone tell me) and as I’m still watching tv and going to the movies I dont have much of a reason to get all precious about free love and crumpets for everyone in the comics industry.

  58. Since the creator rights fistfight seems to be going fine, I’ll just comment on the artistic merit ofg the project.

    I was tickled by Graeme’s assertion that “we can’t predict that these comics have no artistic merit”; mostly because I knew he’d have to bust out with “there’s no way that will be any good” at some point. Ah, Graeme. But the fact is,I already know these comics aren’t any good and I’ll tell ya why.

    Imagine if these exact comics had come out right before the movie premiered. How different the reaction would have been! Would any one have even blinked? Would Alan Moore even have bothered protesting, when the other licensed properties were already clogging the shelves?

    And would anyone have seen it as a publishing event, no matter who the creators were? Or would the fans have done as they always do with movie tie-in comics – shrug and let them clog up the quarter boxes with the PREDATORS prequels?

    There’s no ambition in this project. None. It’s a straight money grab. If it had been AFTER WATCHMEN it might have been different… There’s a reason DARK KNIGHT STRIKES keeps getting dusted off, because Miller was insane to have tried it and he left everything on the field in his attempt. What is being risked here? DC’s integrity? Even DC doesn’t care about that.

    What really kills me about this project is Hughes and Conner. I love these two, but they draw at a snail’s pace. I hate that they’ll be wasting a years productivity on sonmething so BORING.

  59. In listening to some of the more cogent points made by Gareme after about the 60 minute mark, I think he hits it in comparing Watchment to 1963 and later Moore properties.

    Watchmen is important for what it became, and as I think Jeff said, for creating an audience which did not exist before. If contemporary sales figures are to be believed (http://www.comichron.com/special/watchmensales.html) it only rarely broke the top 10.

    What it did, however, is create a book market for TPs, and helped pioneer the entree of ‘graphic novels’ (read: collected trades) into mainstream bookstores. One can argue that it was its availability over that time period which fueled the mystique, rather than the other way around.

    I have to say I think Graeme hits it in comparrisons to Miraceleman,and how those two near contemporary works have shaped fan and market reaction. I suspect Watchmen would be just one more cult series remembered by those dwindling number of pre-Collapse fans still left in comics post 1991.

    Creators’ rights were a huge issue in the day, just pick up any issue of the Comics Journal. But it is impossible to try and rewind history and change that one aspect, but keep all other points fixed.

    Things GOT better, as Jeff notes. Companies changed their behaviour and the market shifted and grew. So while I’m sure to be inviting invective for being a corporate apologist, I think both sides tried to get a deal they could be happy with. By the standards of the day it was pretty good. What needs to be remmebered is that no major publisher actually DID have an evergreen TP list, nor was there the perception of market acceptance that trades would sell AFTER the product had wrapped, maybe with the exception of “crazy” Dave Sim and his cerebus phone books. This was all new territory.

    But much like Siegal and Schuster (and why has nobody mentioned them but only Kirby?), neither side realized just how much getting the rights in the case correct would MATTER.

  60. “I don’t understand why there is such resistance to treating creators equitably.”

    Well, creators today are treated much more equitably. That really has nothing to do with the argument that DC should avoid making money just because it pisses off Alan Moore.


  61. @BD Montgomery

    Maybe I didn’t make my point clear enough. Thank you with providing me the opportunity to try again…

    If publishers see nothing wrong with stealing from creators, creators see nothing wrong with helping them steal, and readers see nothing wrong with all this theft, then how does anyone get to point at the person pirating and say they’re the ones who are pooping in the punch? It just seems to me the pirate is so far down the line of the no-morals train that I kinda don’t see why we’re worried about him/her? People in glass houses throwing stones….

  62. @John K

    Your latest is the best comment ever. I especially like the bit about Moore deserving a restraining order against DC. Good job!

  63. @Siythe: “There’s a whole ton of reasons screenwriting for Hollywood and Comic writing for DC and Marvel arent the same thing at all but I’m not going to go into that.”

    …like WHAT, for example? As somebody who’s been a working writer in one of those fields, and who has dabbled in the other, I’m hard pressed to think of two fields more essentially similar. (There is a reason that there’s been so much “bleed” and overlap between the two fields in the last several years.) The only BIG difference is that the screenwriters actually have a guild which has negotiated contracts clearly stating exactly HOW the producers and studios can screw you over, and the recompense for particular positions of screwing.

    Do you have a point, or are you just looking for an easy way to shrug off a comment by a writer (John Rogers) who is well-known in both fields?

    @Chris Brown: Congratulations, you have a bold future ahead of you as a lobbyist for publishers.

    However, I would like to point out that the key word in publishing is “publish.” Traditionally in the print industry, it was acknowledged that authors owned their works, not the publisher. When magazines published a short story, it was clear that they had only bought the “1st North American serial rights” and that other rights would revert to the creator (for republishing, anthologies, etc.) Book publishing contracts clearly spelled out royalties per sales and other terms. Underlying rights — such as adaptation to film and other media — usually belonged to the author.

    Comic book publishers, however, have often tended to act as IP clearinghouses as well as “publishers.”

    You and everybody else who assumes that “Moore got paid, therefore he has nothing to complain about” are jumping to huge conclusions about what Moore signed, what he THOUGHT he was signing — and don’t understand his history as a savvy writer who was attempting to maintain some control over his IP to that point.

    Remember that kerfuffle about the copyright notices on the Moore / Davis CAPTAIN BRITAIN collection some years back? That happened because Moore and his collaborators — due to the small up-front money they were getting for pages — signed a contract making it clear that the payments were only for first publishing rights. If Marvel wanted to reprint them later, they’d have to pay more money.

    Similarly, Moore & co. retained many rights on their MIRACLEMAN / MARVELMAN work. This is why Alan Davis has groused about Moore’s work with Eclipse, complaining that Moore collaborated with people who stole Davis’s artwork — never paying him for reprinting it, or for using character and costumes that he designed. It’s also why Neil Gaiman was able to spearhead the lawsuit effort to claim back rights to the character and stories from Todd McFarlane.

    In fact, the British Invasion writers seem to generally have a fiercer belief in creator rights than most of their American contemporaries — understanding that money passing hands does not necessarily mean that ALL rights have been bought, lock, stock and barrel.

    That’s why Gaiman fought and won against McFarlane in the Medieval Spawn / Angela lawsuit; it’s also why he demanded additional moneys from Tekno / Big Comics when they tried to turn his pitch for ONE series into a whole line based on his concepts.

    Moore, for whatever reason, has tended to contest his fights in the court of public opinion instead of, like Gaiman, fighting them legally.

    There’s a reason we’ve lost many of comics’ top talents over the years to other fields — because the industry offers few rewards in terms of either profit or control to the freelance writer and artist.

  64. “If the argument is that the wishes of a characters/settings creator should still impact on what is allowed to be done to them despite the rights being sold then you dont get to limit it to special cases.”

    But what you refer to special cases, I refer to as novels. What you’re essentially arguing is that superhero comics shouldn’t have NOVELS that we understand are novels and respect the way we respect novels.

    These aren’t hard cases to distinguish– if someone were commissioned to create an ongoing character, then their wishes are mitigated by the inherent understanding of everyone that the enterprise occasionally requires radical revisions. But that’s not what novelists are commissioned to do– Alan Moore didn’t hand them a franchise; he handed them a novel. And even that argument I don’t like because its too much a historical question– I think we can say after the fact that some things have become novels. I don’t know what they PLANNED when they launched Sandman, but Sandman became a novel by the end of it. Let’s leave it the hell alone. Not everything has to be McDonalds. But I think the writing’s on the wall…

    With the Watchmen sequels, and after Sandman, what novels will be left with superhero comics? The Enigma and…? Not a lot come to mind. Sure, there may be an unfairness to treating some things as special but if we don’t, the cost is a diverse genre that can accommodate more than one kind of work.

  65. @Chris Hero – “If publishers see nothing wrong with stealing from creators…”

    There was no theft here. Alan Moore willingly signed a contract and was compensated for his labour.

    Now we can certainly debate the fairness of the deal. We can argue about the moral responsibility of the company to respect the creator’s wishes. We can even, if we so choose, make shrines to the shining beauty of Alan Moore’s soul and the radiant light it casts across the world.

    But we dont get to say DC stole from him cause it just aint so.

  66. @Robert G (comment 52): I’ve been looking at this board for a long time and have not read a more astonishingly ignorant comment. If you think that only those born into vast wealth are capable of starting companies, then you need to get your head out of those comic books and start looking around. I started making a list off the top of my head, starting with just the comics industry (the guys who started Image, the guys who started Dark Horse, etc), but then felt silly even explaining it to you.

    @JohnK(UK): Fair enough. I was just making a general point. I don’t know much about the nitty gritty of the agreement between DC and Alan Moore specifically.

  67. @Siythe: “Alan Moore willingly signed a contract and was compensated for his labour.”

    JEEBUS CHRIST. Yes, money passed hands. That doesn’t necessarily mean ALL rights were bought and paid for. See above examples re: Captain Britain, Medieval Spawn, etc. Just because somebody receives money for an intellectual property doesn’t mean they’ve sacrificed ALL rights.

    “Compensated for his labour”: WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. When a publisher is contracting with a freelancer, the relationship is not one of employer to employee — it’s more like one company contracting with another. The publisher is arranging to buy, lease, rent or borrow property according to certain conditions or terms. The money is not paying for “labour,” typically — it is paying for intellectual property and finished work.

    Let me know when you actually read Moore’s WATCHMEN contract and can tell me the exact terms of the copyright reversion and merchandising royalties. Obviously, DC and Moore have somewhat different interpretations of what it says and what was intended.

  68. @Siythe

    You’re making the mistake that the exploitation of a legal loophole is the contract itself. No one, not Moore or DC, has ever disputed the *intent* of the contract was to legally find a way for DC to print Watchmen comics at that time. All this subsequent DC keeping the IP because it’s in print is truly beside the point of the actual contract as it’s been presented to all of us.

    And to everyone else…here’s a perfect quote from De La Soul to summarize this mess:

    I am Posdnous
    I be the new generation of slaves
    here to make papes while a record exec rakes
    the pile of revenue I create
    But I guess I don’t get a cut cuz my rent’s a month late

  69. @Steve D – “Do you have a point, or are you just looking for an easy way to shrug off a comment by a writer (John Rogers) who is well-known in both fields?”

    For one thing the writer is not the main creative force on a movie. Their work is likely to be changed based the directors whim, notes from the studio and the desires of actors with enough star power, all of whom rank higher on the project than the writer. When rewrites are demanded it is just as likely another writer will be brought in to go over their work as it is for them to be given a chance at it.

    For another the Hollywood studio accounting Rogers was talking about is based around raising tens of millions for a movie,spending it and then using the profits to pay back the investors. The accounting of comics deals with nothing like those sums, has no investors to pay back and has nothing like as many cut outs and middle men between a writer and the profits of the finished product.

    Beyond putting words on paper the nature of the two jobs and the industries they are in is to different to warrant a direct comparison regarding the impact of piracy on them.

    @Abhay “Not a lot come to mind. Sure, there may be an unfairness to treating some things as special but if we don’t, the cost is a diverse genre that can accommodate more than one kind of work.”

    How? For all the romanticism surrounding them Watchmen was a miniseries and Sandman was a monthly with a limited run. Neither of those forms is in any danger of going extinct.

    What you’re talking about is a critical mass of opinion forming around certain works. That doesnt just happen because someone stands up and says ‘this one will be a masterpiece.’ It happens partly through the quality of the work and partly through the impact it has on the industry at the time.

    The quality of the work is up to the writers and artists, that much is controllable. The impact it has will have is down to circumstance, timing and luck. Someone capturing lightning in a bottle again and creating the next ‘Novel’ isnt threatened by Watchmen Begins anymore than the future of literture was threatened by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

  70. @Steve D & @Chris Hero

    So there is no evidience of theft then?

    Good. Glad we agree.

  71. @Siyhthe

    You’re just looking to win an internet argument. Hats off to you, you won. Yay…. I just don’t have the heart to argue why exploiting a contractual loophole to steal property is wrong. If you’re ok with this not being theft…you and I have a different set of morals and talking about it further just doesn’t matter….

  72. @ Chris Hero- I don’t disagree. From a moral standpoint piracy may be farther down the list of wrongs. My point was that there are other consequences to piracy, specifically that the laws against it are already in force.

    If the copyright holder wants to charge you, you’ll need a good copyright attorney and a pile of money; arguments that it’s not wrong or that the copyright owner is doing bad things won’t get you anywhere once you’re in court.

    I just think that needs to be factored into the equation even if you don’t see any moral reason against piracy (or don’t see piracy as worse than what publishers do.)

  73. @ Siyhthe and Chris Hero

    Can we all agree that waffles are fantastic when they come out of a window? Can we at least agree to sugary, yummy tastiness?

  74. @Adam Farrar:

    I vaguely remember jokes about the squid, back in the day. Maybe I’m wrong.

    I liked the squid fine, but the movie ending made more sense anyway. The squid didn’t bother me the first time I read Watchmen, when I was thirteen or something, but by the time I was reading the book in adulthood I started wondering how anyone (in-universe) was supposed to buy the lie Veidt was selling.

    1. “Hey, there’s not, actually, a Dimension X.”
    2. “Hey, this thing was teleported.”
    3. “Hey, this thing has human DNA in it!”
    4. “Hey, Adrian Veidt owned the Institute for Extraspatial Studies, did research into teleportation, and employs the world’s foremost genetic engineers. Many of whom died recently, along with the teleportation scientists, along with a lot of other people directly and indirectly employed by Veidt.”

    The movie leaves a pretty big paper trail, too, but Dr. Manhattan going apeshit is still way more plausible a cover than “extraterrestrial bee.” Although now I forget how the Comedian found out, without the artists’ island. Don’t care, Graeme’s wrong and the movie’s way good.

    The comic is way better, and it has a nice story too, with interesting characters. Not everything is form, dudes. Only like 80-90%.

    As for the actual Before Watchmen… I mean, I don’t care at all that Alan Moore’s work is being mined. Seriously, at all, it’s what he did, it’s what he does, it’s what everyone in any creative field does. Big deal.

    But like Abhay alluded to upthread, is there possibly more of a waste of time than doing prequels to a book where one third or more of the 320+ pages were DEVOTED TO BACKSTORY?

    Gonna buy Ozymandias, though, for Jae Lee. He’s so dreamy.

    P.S.: I really, really wish one of these was being written by Geoff Johns. That would be the kind of shipwreck of hubris Aeschylus might have written about. I’d also read a Before Watchmen comic by Aeschylus, preferably the Comedian series. He seems pretty comfortable with the subject matter.

  75. Addendum: I would buy Ozymandias either way, because of the Jae Lee, but it also strikes me as the most relevant/least unnecessary of the bunch, since Ozymandias’ backstory is related in rather leaden exposition to dead people/the audience instead of being more seamlessly interwoven with the present-tense narrative that Rorschach and the Comedian and Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre got (and Dan Dreiberg didn’t, but Dan Dreiberg’s defining characteristic is being boring as skim milk, so I see no reason to pick up Nite Owl especially when I don’t like Andy Kubert one bit).

    This isn’t to say it *is* relevant or *is* necessary, but it has the most obious *right to exist.*

  76. @BD Montgomery

    I must be explaining myself poorly…. I’m not saying piracy is good. I’m saying I just don’t care about it anymore. The way comics, Hollywood, and the music industry has and continues to treat artists has just made me give up caring about it and all the crying about “theft.” If someone wants to pirate, I don’t care and I’m now deaf to any moral arguments about it. I just don’t think it’s right these guys get to exploit contracts to their favor on one hand and then try exploiting copyright law in their favor on the other.

    Just please stop twisting my words into me being pro-piracy. I’m pro-apathy.

  77. Fully with @Chris Hero on the piracy issue. Invariably, when telling consumers WHY they should eschew piracy, the argument is invariably “because it hurts the artists.” To quote a commentator on the John Rogers post above…

    ROBERT GREEN “Well, John, I’m glad you said it… that we work for a group of companies (or, as Romney likes to call them “people”) who consistently steal our money. The corporations for whom we work steal the money we are owed. They do so under several different guises, but none of them are ethical or moral… Whether it is the decision that… “we can reinterpret what seems clear because we have a ton of lawyers” or “who gives a fuck, fuck that loser — I’m a mid-level functionary who has been told by his/her higher-ups to screw anyone who isn’t important”. The idea that the problem in our business is that we, the freelancers at the bottom of the food chain, MUST RISE UP TO PROTECT THE VERY CORPORATIONS THAT FUCK US OVER AND OVER AND OVER is just…insane.”

    So basically what we have here is one band of pirates bitching about another band of pirates.

  78. And @Siythe, thank you for confirming my suspicion that you have NO IDEA how the film / TV industry or comics industry actually works.

  79. Chris Brown: “@Robert G (comment 52): I’ve been looking at this board for a long time and have not read a more astonishingly ignorant comment. If you think that only those born into vast wealth are capable of starting companies, then you need to get your head out of those comic books and start looking around. I started making a list off the top of my head, starting with just the comics industry (the guys who started Image, the guys who started Dark Horse, etc), but then felt silly even explaining it to you.”

    Chris, I am proud to be the person who has posted the most “astonishingly ignorant comment” you have ever “looked at”. You must not read a lot or engage in reality a whole bunch. I am an attorney and have a lot of schooling under my belt. I am more privileged than most. I know how difficult it is to receive a loan from a bank in order to start up a business. The guys who started up Image and Dark Horse did so in a time when financial resources were more readily available. We don’t know how lucrative a deal it really was. Also, it helps if you have some talent in that regard. Your comment did not reflect that simple acknowledgment.

    Get your head up out of your ass and look around dude.

  80. @ Chris Hero- Whoa! No, nope, if you read what I was saying as you being pro-piracy, please strike it. Wasn’t what I was trying to say at all.

  81. @Chris Hero – No no no. Either I’m just trying to win an argument on the internet OR I’m morally bankrupt. One or the other is fine but both at once and the pedestal you’re on starts to wobble.

    @Steve D – Which I for one thought you brilliantly showed up with your insightful counterpoints. Bravo.

    Now enough of this pointless sniping. Onto the serious business.

    @gary – To be honnest the whole Waffle conversation passes me by somewhat. I can get potato waffles from the supermarket I guess but the freezer cabinet doesn’t have any windows and they’re really more savoury than sweet. Does anyone know any good waffle shops in the UK I should go to try them?

  82. @Chris Hero – No no no. Either I’m just trying to win an argument on the internet OR I’m morally bankrupt. One or the other is fine but both at once and the pedestal you’re on starts to wobble.

    @Steve D – Which I for one thought you brilliantly showed up with your insightful counterpoints. Bravo.

    Sometimes there just isnt a rolled eyes smiley big enough in the whole of the internet. Maybe if I look for a slow handclap one…

    Now enough of this pointless sniping. Onto the serious business.

    @gary – To be honest the whole Waffle conversation passes me by somewhat. I can get potato waffles from the supermarket I guess but the freezer cabinet doesn’t have any windows and they’re really more savoury than sweet. Does anyone know any good waffle shops in the UK I should go to try them?

  83. Robert G:

    So you want me to acknowledge that it is possible to start a company without being born into vast wealth (which is what you originally said), but that it’s hard work and takes brains, talent in the field, and it helps if the economy doesn’t suck. OK, I hereby so acknowledge. Which is easy, since it doesn’t alter my original point in the slightest. I’m done.

  84. Remember back in a more innocent time, two lawsuits ago, when we were all only disgusted by Watchmen 2? It’s like looking at a Norman Rockwell painting now.

  85. Eyyy, relax guy, it’s only a comic from the 80ies!

    You know back when everybody was afraid of NUCLEAR ARMAGEDDON?
    (or was that only Alan Moore?)

  86. @mckracken: It definitely wasn’t only Alan Moore… I remember watching ROAD WARRIOR at an impressionable age and being convinced that it was pretty much a documentary account of my grim future. This was also the era of things like THE DAY AFTER and THREADS — grueling post-atomsmash docudramas replete with depictions of firestorms, fallout, radiation burns & other such fun.

  87. 50ies (EC sci-fi titles, A-BOMB tests) 60ies even (cuban missile crisis) but the mid-80ies? MTV, Mcdonalds and Malls?

    Na, I think it was Moore only.

  88. I can’t believe no one else has commented on the podcast’s intriguing mention of the mysterious “Project X.” I can only assume that Jeff and Edie are building a Wolverine in their basement.

    As far as the ethics of Before Watchmen goes, there seems to be a lot of conflation of morality and legality going on here. I’m sure that what DC’s doing is perfectly legal, but “legal” and “moral” have nothing to do with each other; one is a question of fundamental ethics and the other has to do with laws largely written by and for the benefit of giant corporations. That artists have frequently signed away their rights to these giant corporations hardly makes their exploitation by these corporations morally justifiable; these contracts aren’t signed as deals between two equal parties, as the law would pretend, but between massively powerful and wealthy institutions and frequently desperate-for-work individuals who need to sell their ideas and labor to pay for the basic necessities of life.

    This isn’t to say that the publication of Before Watchmen is necessarily an evil act, much less that those artists who’ve signed on to work on the project are complicit in the exploitation of Moore and Gibbons. Rather, it’s that we should expect nothing less from a system as corrupt and debased as the one in which the modern comics industry developed, flourished and is now struggling to survive. The real wonder isn’t that DC have decided to finally strip-mine Watchmen, but that they didn’t do it much sooner; that DC held off for as long as it did, only to decide to pull the trigger now, is probably an indication of the desperate state of the market as much as anything else.

    Anyway, from an artistic point of view, I expect most of these series to be pretty lame. Is there any way that a Rorschach series won’t be a perfunctory retread of everything we already found out about the character in the original book? Is the “Ozymandias” series just going to be a bunch of scenes of Veidt doing increasingly questionable things based on the notion that the ends justify the means? “I’ve set this puppy on fire… to save these two orphans! Now I’ve set one of the orphans on fire… to save five more orphans!” But I’ve assumed since this story first broke that the real point of a Watchmen prequel is to test the waters for a Watchmen sequel, which is obviously both the more aesthetically offensive and the more opportunistic way to go. I wouldn’t be surprised if this didn’t start out simply as a plan for “Watchmen 2,” before Didio et al. decided to play a bit more coy with it.

  89. Also, while I wouldn’t dream of adding to the umpty-zillion questions that Graeme and Jeff have left to answer, I did want to link to this page indicating that Jack Kirby worked on a comic book adaptation of The Prisoner.

  90. @mckracken: Quite right, as someone who grew up in the 80s, my memory must be faulty. It was only Alan Moore, of course. It must hurt to be right all the time.




  91. How old are you, mckracken? Because I’m old enough to remember the 1980s, and I can tell you that Alan Moore was not the only person afraid of nuclear war. I can recall shitting my pants with the rest of the country watching The Day After. In addition to MTV, McDonalds and malls, there was also the Chernobyl disaster, and Three Mile Island just a few years earlier. Reagan escalated the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union until the USSR started to collapse and had his Star Wars anti-nuke plan. It was pretty common to see groups of people protesting nuclear power – both weapons and domestic power. In 1982, there was an anti-nuclear war rally in Central Park that had one million people protesting.

    So, na, not just Alan Moore.

  92. @moose n squirrel: Thanks for one of the most eloquent and clear-headed statements on the legal and ethical morass that this thread has seen.

    And Kirby on THE PRISONER? Awesome stuff… Here’s a blog with more art from this curious project:


  93. Can I get a little more story on Chris Claremont quitting X-Men and having a car wreck? I am stupifyingly ignorant of it, despite having been an avid reader at the time.

  94. The only thing I remember about Claremont getting in a car wreck was an interview where he talked about leaving, and at first he thought he was handling it well, “Then $1000 of damage to my car later…”

  95. Wait, what?

  96. And of course, here in the utopian twenty-teens, the specter of nuclear war has completely receded!

  97. The specter of nuclear war?! LOL.

    What are you, a comic book writer?!

  98. Oh yeah, also, I just remembered, the same year Watchmen came out, there was some Batman comic that also used nuclear armageddon as its backdrop. I think Klaus Janson was the inker on that one.

  99. If they’d gotten Klaus Janson to do DK2 it might’ve been readable.

  100. 100th comment. What do I win?

  101. It was great to hear you get into Claremont at the end, especially after hearing Graeme reevaluate Claremont in the last episode, saying he likes his new stuff unironically.

    What got me into Claremont was Jason Powell’s blog, reading and analyzing
    of Claremont’s 17 year X-men run. It got me reading and got me appreciating both Claremont and X-Men.


    It’s definately worth the massive undertaking, including the invaluable comments. It’d be great to hear you two getting into this on the podcast.

    (The link starts at the end, so you’ll have to hit “Older Posts” quite a few times to get to the beginning. I’ve put it all into text documents for my own use.)

  102. God, I gotta stop visiting the DC message boards about Watchmen. All that board ever makes me want to do is to punch things.

  103. McKracken’s knowledge of Britain’s cultural atmosphere in the 1980s (where Moore was living and working) displays telepathic prowess at which one can only marvel. I now see that war, class conflict, entrepreneurial ambitions, the gutting of British industry, Murdoch triumphing against unions, and the such like were really just a coded way of saying “MTV, McDonalds and Malls”.

    And yes, of course Watchmen is set in America. One might counter charges that it fails to include all the “MTV, McDonalds and Malls” with the small point that the DAMN BOOK IS A COUNTERFACTUAL, if not an outright parable.

    See also: Einstein’s Monsters, London Fields, THREADS (as mentioned above), When The Wind Blows…

  104. Although this Watchman discussion has been great, I just wanted to thank you for answering my question.

    Now back to Watchmen…

  105. @Moose n squirrel: “But I’ve assumed since this story first broke that the real point of a Watchmen prequel is to test the waters for a Watchmen sequel, which is obviously both the more aesthetically offensive and the more opportunistic way to go.”

    I dunno. If that’s their gameplan, I’d much rather them have just done it. A Watchmen sequel has more of a reason to exist, and would perforce involve more imagination, even if it sucks, than fitting in prequel stories about Walter Kovacs learning how to fight, to be nobody’s fool.

  106. I’m going to sidestep the larger Watchmen discussion, and circle back to Mr. Lester’s aside regarding “The Killer” and the minefield of adapting or expanding upon an original work. In the film industry, it is rare that an original premise is left alone. Remakes are pretty standard. Some can be pretty good, others not so much. So “The Killer” is a notable exception in this regard. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Bangkok Dangerous. Bangkok Dangerous was a Thai crime film released back in 1999 that did quite well on the festival circuit. Several years later Nicolas Cage signed on to star in the adaptation. Cage was slated to play the main character, a deaf-mute hitman. A DEAF-MUTE HITMAN. NIC CAGE. Well, in a turn of events that surprised fucking no one, they changed it so that Mr. Cage could have lines. Here’s the money quote from director Oxide Pang:

    “Producers say, ‘It’s better to have him talk. [We] don’t want to have a superstar in a Thai film not talk,’ ”

    So take that with you Jeff. Clutch your copy of “The Killer” to your breast and shudder at the the thought of what could have been.

  107. I am reaaaaaaalllllyy late to this discussion. I don’t always get a chance to listen right away, but I felt a driving need to respond.

    All of this is besides the point of Before Watchmen’s artistic merits, that will be a personal call for each comic fan when the issues arrive.

    I’m sure I am not the only one to voice these thoughts (heck at this point I might be the last!) but I can’t believe the incredible naivety and hypocrisy I heard on the podcast and have read in this thread.

    Seriously, we’re meant to be surprised and shocked that a major corporation has acted in its own self interest? Hasn’t anyone ever worked a a large business (even medium or small)? Isn’t this one of the reason’s that people got so worked up when the Supreme Court ruled that corporations had the same rights as people?

    A business is not moral or immoral, it is amoral. To think otherwise as a freelancer or work for hire employee is delusional. The corporation that you work for right now cares nothing for you and will downsize you, use your idea, cut you pay or hours and generally treat you as a spare part if that is what is deemed best for the business. Loyalty to any business is always a one way street unless you have an iron clad contract or a part ownership in the business. Look around at the unemployment rate. How many people who are now unemplyed thought they were indispensable and would never be let go?

    Then, to push the naivety to a surreal level, Jeff makes the case that freelancers shouldn’t have to read their contracts as they need the work and can’t risk pissing off their prospective clients (employers). If you think this way, you are just asking to be taken advantage of. It doesn’t matter what age you are, the same applies to a 23 year old and a 63 year old. You can wish it wasn’t this way and then scream bloody murder when the company does what it is contractually able to do. Or maybe, you read the contract disagree with it, request changes, have that denied and then just walk away. In this case there would have been no Watchmen, we would have been denied an excellent take on the dominant comic genre and Moore’s resume is less than it is now. But…Moore still has his idea, can continue to shop it around and doesn’t feel this level of animosity towards DC. I don’t know which choice is better. I’m for having Watchmen at all but admit that maybe, if Moore wasn’t militantly opposed to ever again working for DC, that there may have been something else superior to Watchmen that may have resulted. What I do know is that the idea that he should just sign whatever contract and hope that DC would take pity and return a profitable property to him with no benefit to the company is a fantasy.

    That leads me to my second point. How can comic fans be up in arms about this as a slight to more nad continue to buy (and in the case of the Wait, What podcast review):
    X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Superman, Captain America, Batman, Ghost Rider (anyone read the latest news about Marvel and Gary Frierich?? Repulsive.), Howard The Duck, Angela, Creeper and so many more I can’t even begin to name them. In all of these cases, the original creators feel that they were cheated, swindled, mislead or just plain robbed of their creations. Where is the upswell of outrage for Kirby, Friedrich, Seigel, Simon, Gerber, Ditko and a thousand more?

    It is counter-productive for this conversation to contniue to be about bad contracts and unsuspecting creators. In most cases, US courts have upheld the company’s rights to the copyright of these characters. In many cases, the comany’s have a good argument about how their stewardships of these properties have enabled their success. What should be the focus now is educating the current creators, young and old about their rights and how to protect them.

    Sorry for the length.

    PS – Beleive it or not…Love the podcast!

  108. There’s certainly practically nothing I fancy more compared to coming to this thoughts every week just after work. Thanks a lot for all of the marvelous articles!!

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