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Alan Moore On Watchmen Rights, DC
posted September 10, 2010

There's a longish Alan Moore interview over at Rich Johnston's Bleeding Cool that I found very compelling for a couple of reasons. One is that the basic situation itself -- the back and forth between an estranged author and a publishing company over profitable properties -- fascinates in several ways including in how it informs us of the ways the new DC regime has thus far acted a lot like the old DC regime, in at least this particular relationship. The other is that I immediately knew without looking that people are going to start making "Alan Moore is crazy" jokes or posts to that effect with little to back them up other than making a scowly face in his direction, putting together a few pull quotes, and working from a worldview crafted in great part from fannish entitlement and an acceptance that the abuse of corporations and their agents is an acceptable thing that has to be negotiated instead of something to which you give the finger and walk away if that's an option for you. I'll bet $25 to the CBLDF right now there's at least one article out there like that.

imageThose people are wrong. Moore sounds perfectly reasonable to me. It has to be as distasteful as hell to feel like your friends are being used to pass messages to you, it has to be frustrating that there was no decisive rapprochement when the new regime took over DC before public declarations were made, it has to be confusing to be offered the things he's been offered without a clear reason given why he's being offered them, and Alan Moore is by far not the first pro to accuse DC of playing politics with assignments in order to make a larger point. (He might be the first pro this month; I'm not sure.) And it's not as if the vast bulk of information he provides is as new as his opinions on it -- almost everything he talks about has been documented from the other side.

So let me suggest that anyone that just throws their hands up and says "Oh, that Alan Moore is crazy" isn't just operating from a dubious moral position, they don't know their history. Forget 25 years of Watchmen shenanigans for a second. If I had had just the experience Alan Moore had with ABC, where I had this giant, multi-pronged project with a publisher not DC in part because they were not DC and then found out one day when I felt I was too far along to back out without screwing over all my friends that my projects were part of a big sale to DC, I would suspect that company of bugging my phone and poisoning my water. If I had had the subsequent experience of being promised certain protections from aspects of DC editorial and then that falling through in absolutely pathetic and super-aggravating fashion over the stupidest of nonsense, I wouldn't trust them to keep their word on a single damn thing. And that's just one set of experiences for Moore when it comes to DC. People get more worked up in many industries when someone bogarts their parking space or makes them turn down a paid-for week in Disney World than Moore does here about 25 years of systemic dickery.

I also imagine that one quote will actually have a bigger effect on public perception than anything else: Moore's scoffing at DC having access to top-flight talent (that might potentially work on Watchmen sequels/prequels/spin-offs), because he doesn't really feel the same way about that talent. That's the kind of thing that enrages comics fans that have an odd investment in such matters, and breaks with comics' fundamental decorum. Sure, Moore was being ungenerous, and, as I recall, this is an opinion not reflective of his actually reading any of those comics. But who among us hasn't posted something as summary and untenable and unkind on a message board somewhere, without the benefit of being Alan Moore? Who among us wouldn't be tempted to talk smack when presented with the idea of people working on our own projects after we've moved on in an unsatisfying way? I'm not Alan Moore, and this goofy site isn't one panel of Watchmen, and there's no money to be had here, but if you told me that a bunch of writers were going to get to work on CR spin-off sites that I didn't really want to happen just so I could get rights to my writing back, I would offer up a similar, Larry Holmes-like description of their abilities to do so. Yes, even the awesome ones.

Mostly, though, all of this is beside the point. If Alan Moore thinks every single writer in comics today sucks balls, if he thinks the worst of the best, if his reputation is slightly diminished today in part because of an unsuccessful movie adaptation with which he wanted nothing to do, and even if he lends himself to wisecracks about his hair and his religious practices and his apparent drug use, none of that changes for one second his lamentable experiences with one of its major publishers. Alan Moore has earned his frustration, his suspicions and his occasional flashes of anger. He should be listened to and learned from, not dismissed and certainly never mocked.