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Before Watchmen


By Andy Frisk
February 1, 2012 - 13:31

"I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago," states Alan Moore in reference to the new Watchmen prequels soon to be gracing the shelves of LCSs everywhere. Alan Moore is (acting like) an egotistical ass.

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At this point the comic book blogosphere is fully abuzz over DC Comics’ announcement that there will be a series of 34 issues of interlocking storylines chronicling the earlier adventures of the main characters of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s brilliant Watchmen series. Our own Zak Edwards has even already penned a very intelligent and thought provoking response to Beyond Watchmen. I highly recommend it. In fact, you really, really should read it. What I have to say here is undoubtedly being said elsewhere as well, but I’ve tried my best to refrain from reading these other articles (besides Zak’s of course) in order to approach this topic based solely upon my own response to it. I did do a quick Google search in order to see what the incredibly weird, once brilliant, and eternally aloof Mr. Moore had to say about this development. The quote above was enough for me to pretty much swear off reading his (greatly diminished) newer works from here on out. I need read no more from the man on this subject. The man has totally lost me. I will always treasure and enjoy rereading his Watchmen and Swamp Thing runs. They will stand the test of time as examples of truly artistic sequential art literature. That being said, Alan Moore’s incredible ego simply blinds him to the fact that while yes, Beyond Watchmen is in part dependent upon “ideas that I (Moore) had 25 years ago” (apparently the only good ones he’s had in the past 25 years mind you), aren’t nearly all mainstream superhero comics dependent upon such ideas? Yes, Watchmen is a mainstream work whether he, or its rabid fans (myself included), want to believe so or not. It was one of the first to display the new mainstream status quo for superheroes, but it is now simply another one of the “realistically based” superhero stories, of which all comics are now for the most part. That is not to say it wasn’t groundbreaking, or unique for its time. To new readers, many of whom have probably read other comics of a similar bent before discovering Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan is just another Valiant Solar (from Valiant’s original incarnation). Nite Owl II is another Batman-like character, and Rorschach is another Punisher. In fact, Moore was dependent upon previous ideas himself, namely The Charlton Comics line of heroes, to tell his own story. If he's so brilliant, why didn’t he just come up with some radically different ones?

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…which leads me back to Moore’s arrogance and assholerly. Saying that a comic book publisher is dependent upon “ideas that I had 25 years ago” is tantamount to saying that Geoff Johns, John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, and a whole host of other Superman writers over the years are simply hacks who have none of their own original ideas or takes on Siegel and Shuster’s creation. Honestly, we never should have had New Krypton, Man of Steel, or The Death and Rebirth of Superman, since these stories, using Moore’s logic, shouldn’t have been written. Superman should have died with his creators, only to be imitated by others to tell different stories, kind of like what Moore did with the Charlton Comics characters he aped for Watchmen. The aforementioned Superman writers used and expanded upon (faithfully mind you) the original ideas that Siegel and Shuster had. In essence, Johns, Byrne, and Jurgens stood on the giant shoulders of Siegel and Shuster. Shouldn’t Moore be happy enough that now some of the most brilliantly talented writers of the current generation of superhero comics are standing on his giant shoulders? At this point nearly all creative writing of any sort is meta and inter-textual. It should be an incredible honor that these writers are themselves honored to stand on your shoulders Mr. Moore.

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I highly suggest that Moore read Mike Carey’s Unwritten. For someone who believes he’s a practitioner of “true magic,” he could actually learn a great deal from Carey about how everything in our lives (including our works of art and literature) is an organic text that is constantly being rewritten, rediscovered, and reinterpreted. That is the point of these works. They are meant to inspire further creation and understanding that grow out of, but are indebted to, their source works. That’s how it works. That is how it has always worked in the vast narrative that is human existence and creativity. Moore should know this by now. Herman Melville stood on the shoulders of the likes of John Milton in order to come up with his masterpiece, Moby-Dick, but more on Mr. Melville later...

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Enough about Moore for now though. His arrogance and disassociation from the reality of his craft speak for themselves. Let’s take a look at the Beyond Watchmen project itself. I am incredibly excited about seeing some of the “early adventures” of some of my favorite superhero characters of all time. Nite Owl II is still one of the greatest characters and best written characters of all time. His story has been an inspiration to me time and again. I even wrote one of first articles I published here about him. Dr. Manhattan as well is a particularly interesting character who is definitely one that J. Michael Straczynski, who is writing both Nite Owl II and Dr. Manhattan’s prequel stories, will undoubtedly work wonders with. Witness what Straczynski did with Superman just a little while ago. Darwyn Cooke writing Minutemen and Silk Spectre is a no-brainer. These characters and their settings are right up his alley. Brian Azzarello on Rorschach is also a no-brainer. Azzarello’s style is perfectly suited to making Rorschach’s insane and extremely violent views palatable. These characters are classics, and their new writers are talented storytellers who obviously have the ability to create new stories while staying true to the spirit of the original characters. I have the utmost faith that they will deliver. Of course, I cannot see the future, but based upon what I’ve read from these guys before, I am more than excited about these new stories. I am ecstatic about them.

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Finally, going back to the "Alan Moore is acting like an ass" theme of the earlier part of this essay, I also came across this quote from him during my search for his reaction to Beyond Watchmen: “As far as I know,” he said, “there weren’t that many prequels or sequels to ‘Moby-Dick.’ ” As talented as Moore is, he is no Herman Melville. One does not compare one’s works to the masters. That is the providence of others. I guess something can be said for acknowledging that your work is good. At least you know yourself, but to compare oneself to someone like Melville is like me comparing myself and my essays to Ted Rall and his essays. I’m good, but I’m nowhere near the league that Rall is in. Moore might have once been a brilliant writer, but again, if he’s Melville then I’m Rall. I am not Rall…

Like music? So does Andy. Read his thoughts on it
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