This weekend at the LA Times Book Festival, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee appeared on a panel, moderated by Geoff Boucher and in a press roundtable beforehand, to talk about BEFORE WATCHMEN. The Beat’s own Shannon O’Leary has a nice, succinct report on their comments here at PW, and from what we understand, she asked some of the tough questions of the pair. So for those of you wondering when the eager “Will the Comedian be raping many people?” fan questions at events like C2E2 would stop, the DC brass have been faced with actual questions.
ON CHRIS ROBERSON tweeting his intention to stop working for DC and the subsequent cancellation of his FAIREST arc:
Lee: I don’t know the writer Chris and it certainly would have helped if I could have talked to him or if he had reached out to me. I didn’t know he felt that way so it was surprising to see that. It seemed odd to me as a creator, I would not publicly state I have a problem with the company that’s paying me to do work for them and I’m going to quit after I do this one project. It would seem wise to me to wait until you finished the project to voice that complaint. You have to imagine from our perspective, for our own internal morale, what does it say for a company to hire somebody who’s that vocally against our principles and yet we’re still paying them. From that standpoint, it doesn’t make any sense.
DiDio: As far as I’m concerned, he made a very public statement about not wanting to work with DC and we honored that statement.
On moving forward with BEFORE WATCHMEN despite ALAN MOORE’s unhappiness with the idea:
Lee: It’s interesting because in the Chris example, he alluded to an article in Comics Alliance that goes on about how Alan Moore has been unjustly treated. In this piece of journalism, it only cites interviews Alan has given. People will listen if it’s polarizing and one sided enough. This is not a situation where we have taken things from Alan. He signed an agreement and yet he said ‘I didn’t read the contract.’ I can’t force him to read his contract. So there’s all these things that people don’t know and Alan has said that explicitly – there are all these things that mitigate or go into the analysis. It’s not as clear-cut as people want to make it seem… It’s not a situation where we’re using the characters and Alan’s not being compensated. For everything that’s been done for Watchmen from the books to the movie, money has gone his way. The right amount that he deserves based on the contract. So we have honored that part of the agreement. It is something that can definitely be debated but to say that there is clearly one side that is right, I will dispute that.
Lee on objections from his former Image colleagues, Eric Stephenson and Erik Larsen:
Lee: [Laughs] Image has their model and strategy—I helped them invent it so I know what it is. If you want to get heard you say it in the most polarizing way possible.
Lee on the new material in general:
Lee: I guarantee you that every single one of these creators that’s working on these books, think they can outdo — match or outdo — what was done in the original.
Look, we’ve spoken to several of the people working on the BefWatch stuff. We’re in a difficult position because so many of them are very very good friends of ours. It is painful when you disagree with someone you like and respect. SO…that said…
Of course, it is great that everyone working on these books wants to do their best. They are, to a man and woman, the kind of people who ALWAYS do their best. So it’s nice that they think they can…outdo WATCHMEN.
A book that is taught in college courses across the nation. That was named to Time’s Best 100 Novels of the last 100 years. That remains DC’s best selling graphic novel ever.
I know some of you don’t like WATCHMEN, so this is not an argument for you.
For others, well…it’s not saying, “We’re going to outdo John Gardner’s James Bond books!”
It’s “We’re going to outdo Moby Dick!”
I actually know a couple of the BefWatch creators who do think they are improving on the original. I think some of the others would be horrified and depressed by such a statement. It’s not a winning situation.
From talking to some people at DC, I understand their viewpoint here: There is room in the canon for interpretation. Maybe DARK KNIGHT RETURNS was the best Batman story…does that mean there should never be another Batman story?
I find these faulty analogies. People since DARK KNIGHT have not been doing Batman stories just in the DKR universe, with 16-panel grids and a blue/grey color scheme. DKR is a very specific work, as is HUSH, or THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Chris Nolan, or BATMAN: NOEL by Lee Bermejo.
As for the first, it is expressly against the will of the co-creator of the work—the guy who invented the characters, the guy who changed comics forever, that guy there in the corner—that this is being done. A man who feels he has been cheated.
A man who was cheated.
JMS admitted as much in Chicago:
“Did Alan Moore get a crummy contract? Yes. So has everyone at this table. Worse was Segal and Shuster, worse was a lot of people.”
This has to be the dumbest defense of all. “Well, this beating wasn’t as bad as the other one, and didn’t break any bones, so it’s okay and let’s just look the other way anyway because Alan Moore is a cranky middle aged man.”
As we keep saying, is ANYONE surprised that Adam Hughes art looks good? As people keep pointing out, the quality of the work is not the issue….it’s that it exists at all.
There is one smallish group that is thrilled about BEFORE WATCHMEN, and that’s retailers. Several upped their already large orders after seeing the preview stuff.
BEFORE WATCHMEN is going to sell a lot of copies and make a lot of money for DC/Time Warner. And all the talk about creativity and who got screwed isn’t going to cover up the fact that WATCHMEN remains one of the best selling graphic novels of recent times.
Anyway, anyone who doesn’t think that is the main reason behind this, call me. I have some Louisiana land I’m dying to sell to you.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.