I guess what bugs me most about Alan Moore these days is how he’s always popping up in some venue or other calling for a mass boycott. Clearly interested in nothing but laying his hands on money he’s not really entitled to, he seems to have little more to occupy his time with than pushing his uninvited invective into conversations that really have nothing to do with him. Stomping up and down the Internet and print media urging people not to buy new work based on his books, heedless of the fact that all his books have in turn been based on somebody else’s work, he comes off like the saddest kind of hypocrite: one who doesn’t even realize his hypocrisy. And for years, out of respect for his talent, no one has really spoken any truth to him about it, but now…well, I’m as sorry as anyone to see it, but the intervention had to happen eventually, and I’m just glad his peers have phrased it as delicately as possible but even if they hadn’t it’s still more than about time to say: Alan Moore, your fifteen minutes are up.
Oh, yeah. I forgot.
How come the intervention’s still happening, then?
It’s a question that’s bugging me quite a bit, today. David Brothers has the round-up for you, and he’s just about as right as rain about it, but the one thing he doesn’t mention is how the pre-emptive strikes against Alan Moore’s unwillingness to approve DC’s new Watchmen ripoffs aren’t just coming from jumped-up fanboys (sadly, I kind of expect it from them), but also from supposed professionals in the comics field, in a show of disrespect that frankly I find shocking. Is it that they’re just so used to the stupid boilerplate PR circle-jerks (“from the beginning I said that if I was going to do this, it had to be done right, and it took a long time for INSERT EIC’S NAME HERE to convince me, in HIS/HER typically brilliant way, that the commitment was there…but I think when fans see what I’ve got planned for INSERT COMIC NAME HERE they’ll appreciate the reverence with which INSERT COLLABORATOR’S NAME HERE and I approached INSERT COMICS CREATOR’S NAME HERE’s work, and understand that we really did it to honour COMICS CREATOR’s contribution to the field…”), is all that shit just so standard now that they can’t even focus on it long enough to realize when it’s actually become offensive? J. Michael Straczynski should really not be at such pains to point out, apropos of nothing if you really think about it, that since Alan Moore wrote Lost Girls he’s not entitled to have negative feelings about Before Watchmen…much less should he drag in the odious hypothetical wherein we would all be much poorer for Jerry Siegel not being booted off Superman, but somehow, some way, he does…
And all the while Alan Moore does not really care, you know. That’s the really unforgivable thing here, that in all likelihood Alan Moore has no idea who Mr. Straczynski is, and doesn’t specifically care if he cashes his paycheque or not. So what’s it to JMS? Does he really think Alan Moore is lobbing grenades at him, grenades carefully labelled “how dare you use my characters without my consent”, does he really feel as though he needs to defend himself against Alan Moore? David B. hits the mark on this one with his usual accuracy: Alan Moore’s displeasure is useful to DC Comics, and that’s probably the only reason they care about it. The comics are coming out anyway, and they’ll sell or they won’t sell, and Alan Moore isn’t calling press conferences about the injustice of it all; they could ignore Alan Moore, if they wanted to. Well, really they are ignoring him, because what they have to say about him isn’t directed at him, answers nothing that he’s actually said about them, and far from correcting errors of fact only folds factual errors into a plausible-sounding narrative that enables the marketing machine to do its business more efficiently. Alan Moore wants nothing to do with any of it, but his name is still something that can be traded on….and thus there must be a controversy, even if it does not actually consist of any genuine controversion. Look, all momentary hipnesses aside, Watchmen is a magnificent piece of allusive clockwork, a great accomplishment of form. Is it one of the top 100 literary works of the 20th century? Certainly not; but it’s a wonderful piece of work, a very valuable piece of work, and it has a great deal of literary merit. By contrast, Before Watchmen (and what a stunningly mediocre title that is, I mean REALLY!) unless a miracle occurs will just be a bunch of generic comics product not really deserving of much scrutiny. Because the very idea that the characters can be revivified, updated to “tell us more about ourselves in the modern world” or whatever the overwrought mission statement du jour is, that idea’s pure garbage as a piece of philosophy. That’s not how stories work, that’s not how characters work: that’s just more spin. A good design is an eternally-productive delight, to be sure, but good design isn’t merely eternal, it’s also effective…and characters, as a result, don’t have any intrinsic storytelling virtues. They can be interesting characters because of the way they’re designed, but they can’t actually themselves “tell us” anything…only writers and artists can do that, and when push comes to shove it doesn’t matter what characters they use to do it, just so long as the characters’ interesting designs are effective at carrying the artists’ messages. And it’s perfectly possible to have the wrong character at hand for a given job! Are there really more great Dr. Manhattan stories to be told? Maybe there are, but merely having Dr. Manhattan in a story doesn’t mean that story’s one of them. There are also, no doubt, many more bad Dr. Manhattan stories lurking out there in Ideaspace, so what odds? How now? What’s the best way this could work out?
Sorry, trick question: it doesn’t matter to me how it works out. Well, I’m not gonna be reading the damn things, am I? If you want to read them, go ahead; that’s your business, and I’m happy to say it doesn’t affect me any more than you mean it to. But I must confess, it does matter to me that the grand PR circle-jerk has expanded to the point where creators are happy to paint other creators as hypocritical malcontents for failing to actively support the cynical exploitation of their creations…where creators unthinkingly adopt and promulgate the company line even to the point where they imply no creator’s contribution is as important as the contribution of the characters they made popular, and that making a living off the work of earlier authors is fine so long as no one rocks that boat, but if someone ever does then it’s still fine, only not for them. You want to see some hypocrisy, well…there it is, you know? And it’s of the saddest kind, too. So I’m kind of pissed at J. Michael Straczynski, if you want to know the truth. And is that fair?
I think it is. After all, you don’t see me getting pissy about Darwyn Cooke or Len Wein, do you? Ha, well, then again all Mr. Cooke said was that he thought it was a dumb thing to do, but then he had an idea. And I’m not a monster: if the man had an idea, he had an idea. Who can prevent ideas from coming? In the privacy of my own thoughts I may judge it or not judge it, but I’m not going to bother you with all that…because as I said, what I think of Watchmen Reloaded is not the subject of this little rant o’ mine. Likewise Mr. Wein’s contribution, you know it strikes me as quite funny, because though I truly do love Watchmen I also love the story where Len says, as the editor of said book, “hey waitaminute, you mean the big plan is a rip-off of “The Architects Of Fear”, are you kidding me, NOT COOL ALAN…” and something in me laughs and laughs at the notion that Len Wein, creator of Swamp Thing and disgruntled editor of Watchmen, gets another payday out of it all at this late date. I mean, honestly…I’m not a monster, you know? And it’s not my place to interfere with some fannish opinion-or-other, when the professionals are cutting weird ironic circles around one another that I can’t interpret. Okay, okay, I guess it’s pretty obvious that I think Watchmen Begins is an effort that was quite neatly described by Alan Moore as “shameless”…but I’m not Alan Moore, and he doesn’t need me defending him, and so this isn’t a defence.
Rather, this is an explosion of irritation.
What the fuck is any creator doing, taking potshots at Alan Moore? Alan Moore doesn’t care about you. And Alan Moore is not your enemy! Everybody knows — everybody knows — that this NuWatchmen thing is pretty much what I called it above, i.e. cynical and exploitative…that’s not a secret.
It really isn’t!
My God, it so ISN’T…!
And yet you will try to snow me about it. It’s good, it’s worthy, it’s been carefully-considered, and it would’ve worked too if it weren’t for you meddling kids and that DAMNED ALAN MOORE…!
But oh, man. Get real. Wake up. Alan lives in a magic cave in Northampton, he doesn’t have the Internet, fuck if I’m not surprised he still has a PHONE. The only reason you’re acting so pissed at him is that you know damn well that this is a shitty and stupid thing to do…well we all know that!…and because you know he doesn’t know, or anyway at least barely knows…and thus is not gonna give you a concrete target to react against…so…
…You’re yelling at shadows.
And now it’s a rescue mission.
You know something, it really is.