Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Forthcoming Prequels To Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen: Quote Roundup

I don’t want money. What I want is for this not to happen.

-- Alan Moore

A kinda-obvious thought occurs: the actual Watchmen sequel? The last 25 years of superhero comics.

-- Kieron Gillen

The pedant in me wants to point out that the last 25 years are by definition not a sequel to Watchmen, but what they most definitely are, at least on some level, is a response to Watchmen; the artistic ground has been well and truly covered, making any retreading of Watchmen’s ground almost certainly redundant except as an exercise in getting dollars ‘n’ press.

-- Zom

As for comparing Moore's use of James Bond or Voldemoort or Dorothy Gale or even The Peacemaker with the More Watchmen effort, that just seems so clearly to me not the same thing by a thousand degrees I can only look on at anyone making that argument with bafflement. I don't even know how to articulate a counter-argument. From my perspective, it's not saying "the sky isn't blue; it's green" it's saying "the sky isn't blue; it's refrigerator."

-- Tom Spurgeon

What Moore is doing is taking a whole bunch of things from all sorts of different works and repurposing them into something else. He’s not trading off their value as intellectual properties (how many comics fans were clamouring for the further adventures of Alan Quartermain?) but making a commentary on the original works, while creating something new.

-- Andre Wickey

It ought to go without saying, but Watchmen is not like other superhero comics. It has attained a sanctified status as the classic example of the potential of the comics medium. It’s part of the canon that anyone seriously interested in comics is supposed to read. For years it was regularly trotted out as the Best Comic Ever. That’s the reason why it’s kept selling all these years.... Quite simply, the selling point of Watchmen is not the plot or the characters or the premise, but the perception that Watchmen is an Important Work of Art. As such, it is uniquely unsuited for franchising. People care about Watchmen as a self-contained work, not about the Watchmen as characters. And if you approach a story in that way, you don’t put it down thinking to yourself “Wow, what a great setting. I hope they get somebody else entirely to do a prequel.”...

The tension inherent in this whole project is that, in order to make an argument for the legitimacy of Before Watchmen, DC have to argue that Watchmen is in this respect basically like other superhero comics, so that sequels should be judged by the same standards that apply to, say, a revival of X-O Manowar or Cloak & Dagger. But Watchmen‘s reputation rests on precisely the opposite belief – that the book is exceptional and unique and even important, and most certainly not like other superhero comics. And that reputation is the whole reason why we’re meant to care about Before Watchmen in the first place.

-- Paul O'Brien

I'm also not certain how you can see this as anything but a step away from the wider cultural message of Watchmen back in the 1980s: that authors matter, that original work can be rewarded on the same level as reworking someone else's ideas, that comics have literary and culture value for their ideas and expressive force above and beyond their value as entertainment product. I might call DC foolish if they were touting these sequel books as a match for Watchmen's artistic achievement, but that this idea isn't even on the table may be scarier. This is a toy line. This is a happy meal. This is "based on." This is product.

-- Tom Spurgeon

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.

-- Plok*

I've enjoyed pieces of work from all of the writers who are contributing to this supremely ill-considered endeavor, but I wouldn't consider any of them to be anywhere near Alan Moore's league. To be fair, the only name writers in the American comic book industry[**] that i can imagine following Moore would be Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman... Of those chosen, Azzarello is the only one who seems to have enough quality output under his belt to even dare comparison to Moore, but in both critical esteem and sales popularity, he seems Lilliputian in comparison. Cooke has likewise written a few very solid genre works before, but nothing that's dazzled in the way Moore's Watchmen's writing does, or even in the way Moore's lesser works do.

-- J. Caleb Mozzocco

A sequel, a prequel or even a suite of character-specific one-shots is one thing. But DC is publishing seven prequels, and each of them is an entire miniseries of its own, running between four and six issues. At this point, the Watchmen prequel event involves 34 individually sold comic books, and there's a promise of at least one more book to come.... This isn't Frank Miller following Dark Knight Returns with Dark Knight Strikes Again, this is 11 of Miller's less-popular, less-successful peers doing 35 sequels to DKR.

-- J. Caleb Mozzocco

I do have to say that I do look at what Brian Azzarello – writing a ‘visceral’ Rorschach series – says and roll my eyes a little: ‘It’s 25 years later. Let’s make them vital again.’

Let’s not kid ourselves here, let’s just look at some numbers. The bestselling individual comic of the last ten years, by miles, is the Obama inauguration issue of Spider-Man, which sold about half a million copies in early 2009. The same year as that, twice as many copies of Watchmen were sold. It had a cover price five times higher.

So don’t anyone delude themselves that this is DC taking moribund smelly clapped out old Watchmen and pouring in energy and lifeforce, hoping a bit of magic will rub off. It’s exactly the opposite.

-- Lance Parkin

Inevitably, once the precedent has been set, now that ‘difficult’ commercial decision has been made, there will be a Watchmen III, and a Watchmen IV. Every few years, from now on, enough material to collect into a new Watchmen book will come out. And DC will be working down their list of creators, and in a few years they’ll be assigning people who managed to boost sales of Hawkman by 15% the previous year.

-- Lance Parkin

If DC will go ahead with more Watchmen, of all things, and, more importantly, if it succeeds... does that mean we'll see a Gaiman-free Sandman relaunch of some sort next?... we're getting "Before Watchmen" anyway. As depressing as that is, here's a more depressing thought: What comes after "Before Watchmen"...?

-- J. Caleb Mozzocco

I’m going to try to explain this purely in bean counting terms. Think about Watchmen as units shifted, think of it solely as product....The unique selling point of Watchmen is that it’s one of the very few comics where you can hand it to someone and say ‘this is it’. You don’t need to collect, you don’t need to worry about what order to read things. You don’t need a Powerpoint presentation from a guy in a comic shop explaining how you also need to buy Thor Annual 5 and don’t forget they renumbered around issue 600 and don’t forget the miniseries that ran alongside the main one. One volume.... Watchmen 2 won’t ‘weaken’ the original Watchmen artistically. It does, though, chop away perhaps its main marketing advantage. Here’s my key objection to Watchmen 2 in purely money-generating terms: they’ve made the wrong corporate decision. They’ve miscounted the beans. This is the wrong way to go about selling more slabs of whatever.

-- Lance Parkin

...DC deciding on prequels seems a little like the publisher trying to get the goose that lays golden eggs to increase her shaking her vigorously. Maybe more eggs will come out faster, or she'll be so traumatized she lays less eggs, or maybe her neck will break and that will be that.

-- J. Caleb Mozzocco

Ten days or so past the official announcement, I'm thinking More Watchmen may be best understood as a blow to comics' dignity. It's product, not art. It's a limited, small series of ideas derived from a bigger, grander one. It's sad. One thing that Watchmen did a quarter century ago was to underline certain values of craft and intent and creative freedom that have helped to yield enough equivalent expressions -- to my mind even grander expressions -- that we may now see this follow-up project for what it is: nothing special. Not Moore. More.

-- Tom Spurgeon

I read the news today, oh boy.

-- John Lennon****

I have a half-finished post of my own on this whole sad situation, focusing on explaining why the sky is blue and not refrigerator even if you don't think the problem here is strictly one of creator's rights. When or whether I'll finish it remains to be seen, of course.

* Thanks to Plok -- whose name (oddly, from my point of view) is nowhere on his blog -- for leaving his handle in the comments. Incidentally, the ellipses in the quotation are in the original.

** I presume by "American comics industry" he means "mainstream American comics industry" -- in which case I agree. But of course lots of Americans are making comics that are in the Gaiman/Morrison/Moore class besides those gentlemen; they just ain't doin' it, that I've seen,*** for Marvel or D.C.

*** Though I've seen comparatively little outside of the works of those three, in all honesty.

**** Yes, actually, this was about the prequels to a work which itself came out twenty years after this was sung.


plok said...

I had honestly never thought about my name being nowhere on my blog before, but...


Anyway, it's "Plok". Or "Pillock", I use 'em interchangeable-like.

Nice round-up! Though my quote's the least pithy of these, I think.

plok said...

It started as "Plok" on Blogger, then when I moved to WordPress "plok" was taken, so...

Seemed like what I was really always trying to say anyway!

Stephen said...

Thanks, Plok. I've updated the post accordingly.

Incidentally, one place that might make sense to put your handle (if nowhere else) is "me" tab you have up at the top. Just a thought.