it was 22 years ago ....

This would, I guess, be the latest in an irregular series of posts called “Discovering amazing quotes while reading old magazines.” I was digging through some boxes of books looking for reference material and I found the July 1987 issue of The Comics Journal (#116, if you want to pick up a back issue, although they don’t have it in the Fantagraphics Store). It would have been a post-worthy find purely on the basis on the CEREBUS review by THE BEAT (“Anyway, the problem is that Dave is equal parts genius and asshole. And he knows it. It’s a trying combination.”) This is from a review of CEREBUS issue #93. NINETY-THREE!

Anyway, this is from an interview about WATCHMEN, conducted by “British comics writer” Neil Gaiman, at the 1986 UK Comic Art Convention.

FROM THE AUDIENCE: I’ve heard a rumor that Watchmen has been optioned for a film and a screenplay’s been prepared.

MOORE: The screenplay’s not been prepared, but the rumor’s absolutely true — it has been optioned for film, and it’s looking good. It was a substantial amount of money that was offered for the screen rights. We all know that a Silver Surfer movie has been being made for the past 20 years at least, so a lot of films get optioned, and I can’t promise that it will ever get made, but everyone seems very eager with the project. It’s not Walter Hill, and I don’t know where this Walter Hill story came from. I think it’s probably because 48 Hours was directed by Walter Hill and produced by Larry Gordon and Joel Silver, and it’s Larry Gordon and Joel Silver that want to do it. I spoke to Joel Silver on the phone and he seems like a real nice bloke. He was saying that he wants me to write the screenplay, starting next year maybe, and he also said, “Can you do it panel by panel like the comic book?” which I don’t think will be possible because that would make a real crap movie. It was written to be a comic, not a movie and they’re not interchangable, but the fact that he wants it done like that speaks volumes to me. They’re not going to give Rorschach a friendly waggy-tailed dog. Although that might be a good idea, mightn’t it?”

So, remember, if there’s a “Blot the Dog” in this upcoming movie, it was prophesized more than 20 years ago!

Posted by Mark Coale


  1. “They’re not going to give Rorschach a friendly waggy-tailed dog.”

    As it turns out, they’re only changing the entire conclusion.

  2. I don’t see how this shows a change in attitude from Moore. Back then, I think Moore felt he owned the Watchmen and would be getting that big option money. I don’t think he figured back then that DC would go through a back door play on his contract and keep the book in print so long they’d get all the money. Also, Moore thought he was going to be writing the script…. If anything, it shows what a monumentally shitty thing DC did by screwing him out of the rights.

  3. I wasn’t knocking Moore, just simply observing how his attitude has changed through the years and after a series of events. Anyway you look at it, his attitude changed. A different time. All I’m saying.

  4. Let’s see: the characters are derived from those owned by DC and the demand for the book has been sufficient to keep it in print.

    Maybe someone else can explain how this is “back door” as I don’t see any subterfuge here.

    I’m certainly no fan of corporatism or work-for-hire, but jeez, the “DC ripped off Watchmen from Alan Moore” trope seems patently specious.

    “DC would go through a back door play on his contract and keep the book in print so long they’d get all the money.”

  5. It wasn’t “back door”. But none of the people who signed that contract, Moore, Gibbons or DC Comics themselves believed that Watchmen would stay in print. Because comics, even trade paperbacks, didn’t.

    Circumstances changed. Moore tried to renegotiate with DC, DC refused, Moore left.

    Later DC Comics decided that they would renegotiate with Gaiman over Sandman to prevent a similar situation, but declined to revisit previous decisions.

    It’s a similar situation to the Writers Strike in the USA of late. Contracts signed in previous times become dated when they don’t take into account a changing marketplace – in that case, DVDs and the internet. In Watchmen’s case, trade paperbacks that stay in print.

  6. Hmmm….

    Richard Pachter:

    While Rorschach may have been “inspired” (“derived” is your term) by the Question, I think any discerning comics fan would see Rorschach is his own character. A character created by Gibbons and Moore.

    I would extend that argument to the rest of the Watchmen.

  7. It’s ironic to be prevented from profiting from your own extreme success. I also think of the service Watchmen continues to provide, as it’s probably keeping many comic stores in the black all by itself to this day. I can’t wait for the movie; I don’t think it’s a sacred text that can’t be altered for film, so I agree more with the unjaded Moore of back in the day than the current extremely disgruntled (perhaps rightfully so) one. DC should play nicer, but we’ve all seen how they don’t, time and time again.

  8. Peter Krause:

    If it were up to me, I would certainly bestow all rights to Watchmen on Alan and Dave.

    But it’s not up to me; in the real world, DC has a valid claim to those rights.

    Is it morally correct? Again, not to me. But it seems to be legally valid. If it isn’t, I’d hope an attorney would advise Moore and Gibbons accordingly so they could proceed with their claim.

    Were they cheated? Was there really a strong expectation that the book would go out of print and they would then be entitled to ownership? If that was the case, it might have made sense to eliminate that clause, though I have the benefit of hindsight, I know.

    I don’t think there’s any question, by the way, that Watchmen’s “heroes” were based on the Charlton characters that DC owned. The reason their names were changed is probably well known to most of those discerning fans you cite.

    Wish it were otherwise but that’s where it’s at. If not, maybe they can find a lawyer who can make a case for them.