Monday, July 26, 2010

The Alan Moore Debate

So the whole debate with a friend of mine Shawn started when I did a tweet about the recent story involving Alan Moore and DC comics. I stated “The whole Alan Moore thing is crazy, he has no room to complain as he knew what he was getting into from the beginning. – Jim” This started a longish back and forth that I thought was interesting enough to be worthy of a post.

Alan Moore is one of the more imposing figures in the comic world with some giving him godhood status, but the man without a doubt had a major impact on comics. The debate follows:

Shawn: Saw your Tweeter post and wanted to shed some light on the history of Moore's grumblings for you. Even he will joke with interviewers and say perhaps he's just grumpy about it, but his arguments have some merit.

Back in the day the original agreement about Watchmen (and V for Vendetta) was that as soon as either one goes out of print, all rights revert back to Moore. This is in his original contract. Back then there was NO Graphic Novel that had been in perpetual print before. Somewhere along the way even the longest running printed GN's eventually went out of print. Therefore the creators were in a consistent Catch-22. (This is still before the big creator-owned push.) Moore and DC had a falling out years later about something else. Moore left.

Moore was doing the ABC line for Jim Lee while Lee sold his company to DC. After he knew he was selling his company, Lee flew to England to explain the situation and Moore agreed to stay on the ABC books as long as DC did not stick their fingers into his business, and as long as he was paid by a "dummy" corporation, so as not to receive money from "DC." Levitz continually censored portions of LEOG (most famous was the Marvel Douche in the back of one of the issues) and it got to a point where Moore decided to tie-up the loose ends in his titles and leave. He did make it work for a number of years but slowly DC editorial started editing his stuff without talking to him first. So once again, he left.

Flash-forward to V For Vendetta. Don Murphy, a Producer, went public saying that Moore supported the film project. Moore got pissed because he did nothing of the sort. He wanted nothing to do with it. All that he wanted to clear it up was not money, but a public statement by Murphy saying he misspoke. It didn't happen and from there on out all royalties were to be paid to the artists. Gibbons got Moore's share of Watchment film rights royalties, etc.

Now a year or two ago there were rumors of more "Watchmen" comics. Moore was approached by DC. They wanted to give him the rights back if he would write some prequels and sequels to the book. Now, Moore basically didn't want to work for something he felt he was swindled against before. And he's long since moved on from Watchmen and simply doesn't care about it anymore.

Now Moore is without a doubt an eccentric. But keep in mind Neil Gaiman did not own Sandman for a number of years. His creator-owned credit (he has weird portions of ownership, i.e. movies have to be done through WB, etc) came years later retroactively. Sandman started in 1989, four or five years after Watchmen came out. It wasn't until the 90's creator-ownership took center stage. Gaiman lobbied for some kind of new arrangement. Moore and DC butted heads for many years. He felt film Producers were saying he was happy with the film when he wanted nothing to do with it. And a simple "no he's not, we were wrong" would have made him happy. He had his name removed from the Watchmen film. Now, years later, DC comes in and says, cash in on this property by writing prequels and sequels and we'll give you the rights back now after all this time.

He should have known better. So should have countless other writers. It's easy to look back from 2010 and say in 1984 Moore should have known Watchmen would be a hit and stay in print for the next 25 years, but there was really no way of knowing. The book could have been ill-received and he would have had the rights within two years.

If Moore's being interviewed and he wants to share that Didio and Co (it was his idea for more Watchmen) wanted to get him to work more on older works to get rights back after all this bad blood between them, I think he's allowed to give his side of things.

Jim: Yeah, yeah, I got all of that, but Moore has been paid millions for his work from DC so let’s not cry over that. Moore has felt free to rape historical characters for LOEG and has not (to my knowledge) sought out whoever might be the children of those people to pay them. Moore also used Marvelman as a basis for a book and never once consulted the creator of that character to my knowledge. Plus the man thinks he is a f**king magician. So while he certainly is due respect for stuff he has done, it does not mean he is right about all of his dealings and doesn't mean he is not a loon.

Also, Levitz fought and got payments for Neil Adams and Denny O'Neil for concepts used in the first Bale Batman movie and Adams even said no one owed them money as they did all their work as work for hire.

Shawn: I actually don't think he's made millions man. He used up most of the $ from back then on independent comic comics that never took off and at some point, like the films, he decided to stop taking royalties for the books too. They all go to the artists. All of the LOEG characters are in public domain. Anyone can use them. Marvelman was done at Eclipse comics and they had the rights at the time. I'm not saying Levitz is a bad guy, far from it. But he was known to butt heads with Moore. (Levitz was always more of a company man and Moore, is well, a f**king Magician. lol) Think of it this way, DC has Moore in a Catch-22 about the rights. Technically they've not gone back on the contract, but Watchmen caused the rules of GNs to change. Because of this oddity (now a regular thing) Dc never revisited it, though they agreed to do so for Gaiman on Sandman. I'd argue Watchmen and V For Vendetta are as much Moore's as Sandman is Gaiman's.

Coming to Moore after all of this time to "cash in" on sequels just to get his work back speaks of DC's new initiative. EVERYTHING is a f**king franchise now with multiple Batmen, Flashes, GLs, etc. They're trying to mine everything for TV, movies, whatever. They want more comics to expand that BRAND. DC is making me sick over it at the moment.

You have to admit Moore stands by his principles by forgoing royalties.

Jim: He (to my knowledge) has accepted the royalty payments for the copies of the Watchmen paperback and with the sales of that book being in the millions of copies sold, even at $2 a pop, Moore is a wealthy man because of that book.

I think you are giving him too much credit, because the Watchmen are not his great creations, they are just twisted versions of the Charlton characters that were originally cast in the role.

Also Moore has made many contradicting type of statements.

Finally your argument about public domain is correct and Moore is on solid legal ground. So is DC. I'm just saying don't act like he is this poor put upon creator who has been shafted by the man, when has built his career on the bones of other people's creations.

Neither side is clean, but Moore is the one complaining.

As for franchises, yeah Marvel and DC cannot leave well enough alone, heck Dynamite tries it with some books and even BOOM has done it a little with Incorruptible.

Shawn: I think you hate his ego and not the circumstances. Were this Eisner, it would be a different argument.

AND, you can say they started as the Charlton characters, but Moore makes them different and all his own. :P

Jim: Built on their frames and the basis for them are from the Charlton characters.

Shawn: Dude. They are totally different now.

You can say Plutonium owes his "framework" to Superman but he is definitely his own character.

Jim: They would have been revamps of the Charlton characters with names like the Question, Peter Cannon Thunderbolt, etc, - DC did not want the characters altered that much, so he changed the names.

Shawn: I'm well aware of where the project originated. However, Rorschach's character, in both appearance and back story, is completely different from The Question. The Owl also, is a different design. Doctor Manhattan is nothing like Captain Atom, etc. They were changed so much there is nothing of the originals left in them. It makes them a wholly unique and original creation.

Jim: Really? I would disagree because the Plutonian is still Superman inspired and the characters in question are inspired by the originals. Without starting with the Charlton characters does he still get to Rorschah and the rest on his own? I say no.

My bottom line is that Moore is not this paragon of pure virtue defending creator rights. He is an artist, who is probably a little crazy and has done some amazing comics, but that does not make him sane (see Vincent Van Gogh).

Shawn: There is nothing left of the Question. He is GONE in Watchmen. Plutonium, though inspired by Superman, is a creator-owned character by Mark Waid. Same with Invincible being inspired by Superman but is owned by Robert Kirkman. By that same token, Watchmen's creation is owed solely by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

You are confusing your personal feelings about Alan Moore and his character with the point of his being disgruntled with DC and not wanting to do Watchmen 2: Electric Boog-a-loo. Just because he may be a writing genius that is batsh*t crazy, doesn't make him wrong and doesn't make DC right.

He may be a cranky old guy, but he sticks to his guns. His stance against DC has gotten worse and worse over the years because there continues to be problems added to problems. His problems with the ABC line and the film side saying Moore loved what they were doing when he said nothing of the kind. I bet if you created something that you didn't own and someone was making a watered-down version of your story into a film and they said you "loved it and supported the project" when you in fact did not, you'd get pissed too.

This is Mark Millar and Brain Bendis all over again. We get it. You don't think much of the crazy Magician with a cave in his basement. Gotcha. It doesn't mean he now never has a point and is constantly wrong. Personally I think we need more eccentric weirdos in comics.

Jim: You are missing my point. I think Moore is a crazy person, but also has some obvious creative genius. Part of that genius is the ability to see things in a different light. Swamp Thing is a prime example in that he twisted the concept just a little and made it go from normal Swamp Monster to something exciting and cool.

What has he created from whole cloth without building on someone else's work that has been as cool as Swamp Thing, Watchmen and Miracleman?

Also I'm also saying he has made a lot of money off of his work, so his constant stances (which are not all consistent) get to be a little old.

I'm not saying he does not have some points, I'm just saying he is not 100% right and I'm sure DC is not 100% right (god knows I find it hard to defend corporations).

It is the nature of the beast that in order to profit from a creative vision you sometimes can't control all of it.

Not sure why you think this is Millar and Bendis all over again. Moore has generated work that I will love forever, Millar and Bendis have their talents, just not so much that I enjoy. In fact Moore's final Superman story maybe one of my favorite Superman stories of all time. The first Miracleman run is also high up on my all time list.

A long debate about Alan Moore, if nothing else the man does stir things up.


  1. "What has he created from whole cloth without building on someone else's work that has been as cool as Swamp Thing, Watchmen and Miracleman?"

    From Hell, V for Vendetta, Promethea, Top Ten, John Constantine, and anyone who read Big Numbers would probably agree that that series had the potential to be something special if it lasted more than two issues. And that's just off the top of my head.

  2. Good Answer - although From Hell is about Jack the Ripper and "V" is uneven at best.

  3. Well, I hardly think we should discount From Hell cause it was based on a historical event. Especially when he wrings THAT kind of a story at it. I could prove that any writer is derivative if I try hard enough.

    Moore is clearly a crotchety old man with some odd beliefs. However, he is capable of writing comics like no one else I have ever seen. Even his worst efforts work with the intricacy of a swiss watch.

    Moore's got an ego, but honestly, can you blame him? Find any comic fan and ask them what their top 5 graphic novels of all time are. If there isn't at least one Alan Moore book on that list, they haven't read enough comics.

    I think he's a bit looney, but then I can't write something like From Hell. Maybe your brain just works differently when you're that talented. I don't really care. If hearing him bitch about the comic industry is the price I have to pay for that level of creativity, bring it on.

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  5. He is talented, I was arguing with Shawn over whether his complaints are valid or not. And many creative people can be loony, doesn't mean they are any less creative.

  6. We should argue more often.

    Moore's complaint is that for DC its now too little, too late, and he's done with them. I think showing that they were going to him to kiss and make nice by trying to talk him into milking his own seminal works compliments his problems with the company.

    YOU think he has no reason to complain because "he knew what he was getting into." Which I argue, he did not. Things were very different in 1984.

    Also, you're still wrong. :P

  7. PS - From Hell is fine. NO ONE KNOWS WHO JACK THE RIPPER WAS. From Hell is not about the who but all about the why. He created who the characters were even if he used shells of historical figures to do so.