Thursday, September 9, 2010

Alan Moore vs Comics

Alan Moore's done a rather lengthy interview over at Bleeding Cool about the "Watchmen 2" rumors, and what DC / Warner Brothers offered him in return for his okay to do sequels, prequels, and etc. It's a great look at Moore's mindset on the Watchmen situation, and on the comics industry in general. Go read it. Now. Then come back here...

Fascinating, huh? Parts of it would come off like crazy conspiracy stuff, if I didn't know that it's exactly how DC Comics has historically operated. Especially during the Levitz era, when the place was reportedly something of a dysfunctional soap opera nightmare. Considering some of the stories I've heard about their practices, it makes perfect sense to me that they'd dangle a friend's well-being out to coerce Moore to play ball. Especially when Moore had already shown a willingness (an eagerness, even) to sign his movie money over to his artistic collaborators.

This is not to say that Moore doesn't sometimes sound like the dotty old magician he is. He's clearly over-thought some of the minutiae of the thing, too. But I can forgive that. Considering how long this has been bothering him, and how the money's gotten in the way of friendships, and how shitty DC's been to him overall... I'd probably run down the wrong rabbit hole at times, too.

But overall, I can't say that I disagree with him about the mainstream comics industry. Their historical "protect the copyrights" stance is only getting worse now that the Hollywood money's turned its hoary eye on them. It was bad enough when Stan Lee threw Ditko and Kirby under the bus in the name of being a good company man. And that was just to protect a shrinking publishing market and a few lousy marketing deals. Now that there's real money involved... I can only imagine how much more byzantine it's gotten.

And that's the sticking point, I think, in my one real point of disagreement with Moore on the subject of the comics industry: there are "top-flight talents" working in American comics these days, and some of them even take work-for-hire jobs for the Big Two. But they're not creating the next big marketable project for those companies because of what happened to guys like Moore, Kirby, and Ditko when they created such projects for them. Why sell your best ideas away on a work-for-hire agreement, when you can publish them elsewhere, reap all the benefits, and retain creative control?

I think there's some fine mainstream super hero work being done these days, don't get me wrong. But it's fine work only when viewed through that lens. Guys like Bendis, Brubaker, and Fraction entertain me with their work-for-hire writing. But ultimately, they're just freshening up the copyrights. Grant Morrison's maybe the only guy in the mainstream industry whose work-for-hire stuff is really transcending its own boundaries. Him, and JH Williams on Batwoman, and... I dunno. Maybe a few others I'm not thinking of right now. Fraction almost pulls it off sometimes.

Anyway. My point is, there are some fine talents in the mainstream end of the industry these days. They're just not all doing their best work on projects owned by their publishers. Which is about the only important point Moore makes that I can't agree with him on.

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