Interview with Alan Moore

Page 4 of 8

 

AM (continued):  You see, part of the problem with all this--and the reason why Watchmen was such an extraordinary book during its time--was that it was constructed upon literary lines.  It had a beginning, it had a middle, and it had an end.  It wasn't constructed as an endless soap opera that would run until everybody ran out of interest in it.  It was deliberately meant to show what comics could do if you applied some of those quite ordinary literary values to them.  Like I've said, this was the one book that elevated the comics medium, the comics industry, above the point where it had previously been languishing.  And where, when I had entered the American industry in the early '80s, it was close to death.  They were going down the tubes, and they desperately needed the shot in the arm that all of the hype surrounding Watchmen provided for them.


What the comics industry has effectively said is, "Yes, this was the only book that made us briefly special and that was because it wasn't like all the other books."  It was something that stood on its own and it had the integrity of a literary work.  What they've decided now is, "So, let's change it to a regular comic that can run indefinitely and have spin-offs." and "Let's make it as unexceptional as possible."  Like I say, they're doing this because they haven't got any other choices left, evidently. 


As for the readers, I have to say that if you are a reader that just wanted your favorite characters on tap forever, and never cared about the creators, then actually you're probably not the kind of reader that I was looking for.  I have a huge respect for my audience.  On the occasions when I meet them, they seem, I like to think, to be intelligent and scrupulous people.  If people do want to go out and buy these Watchmen prequels, they would be doing me an enormous favor if they would just stop buying my other books.  When I think of my audience, I like to have good thoughts and think about how lucky I am to have one that is as intelligent as mine and as moral as mine.


So, I wouldn't want to think that my readership were the kind of comic fans who are just addicted to a regular fix of their favorite character and, "Yeah well Jack Kirby he's not as good as he used to be, is he?"  And, "Who cares that he created almost everything that Marvel have built their line upon?"  And note, Jack Kirby, I'm saying, created them.  I'm not even saying "Lee and Kirby."  From my perspective, it looks like Jack did most of the work.


The kind of readers who are prepared to turn a blind eye when the people who create their favorite reading material, their favorite characters, are marginalized or put to the wall--that's not the kind of readers I want.  So, even if it means a huge drop in sales upon my other work, I would prefer it that way.  I mean, there's no way I can police this, of course.  But, I would hope that you wouldn't want to buy a book knowing that its author actually had complete contempt for you.  So, I'm hoping that will be enough.


That's basically my position.  I mean, I certainly shan't be taking legal action against these comics because it's pretty much stitched up.  If they've got clauses in the contract that say that they can actually get an attorney to sign contracts--that the comics company has got power of attorney--then there's not much chance.


And also, of course, they're a huge corporation.  They've got lots of lawyers and infinite amounts of money that they can keep people in court.  They can keep me, and my descendants, in court fruitlessly for decades.  And, I wouldn't wish that upon my kids or grandkids.  And anyway, of course, if I was involved in a legal situation, I wouldn't be able to comment upon it, would I?


KA:  No, of course not.

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KA:  You don't see the characters working independently of Watchmen?


AM:  I don't think they will.  They weren't designed to work like that, and I'm the person who designed them.  They were designed to work in an ensemble piece.  They're in some ways very generic characters--deliberately so.  They were kind of archetypal comic book characters, or were intended as such.  So, no I don't think this can work creatively.  I mean, that does my work for me to a certain degree.  All the nasty comments that I was making when I was angry--about the comics industry not having had an idea of its own in the last 40 years and not having sufficient talent anymore to create new ideas--these are very unkind things to say about an entire industry.  But, it would seem that DC are really going that extra mile in trying to prove me incontrovertibly right.  And, I can only imagine that these prequels are some part of that drive on their part.


KA:  In Watchmen, the past that's unspoken in the characters' lives is meant to be just that--hinted at and unstated.  That's part of the story.  You're not supposed to know everything that happened before.


AM:  You're told all that you need to know, and that's as much as exists.


KA:  It should be stated that there are creators who want to work on this and fans who are excited about it.  I was talking to an editor friend of mine and he said, "I'm angry about this too, but I don't know what I would have done if someone offered me the mini-series.  I don't know what choice I would have made."  Now, I'm not in a position to do that personally, but what do you think about the impetus of people who want to read these books or work on them?


AM:  Well, I'm afraid I have to take a kind of hard line on that, Kurt.  This is just purely me, but obviously in regard to any of the--what's the word?  I don't want to use "creators."  I feel that the industry employees who are actually working upon this book--I had only heard of about three of them--but I'm certainly not interested in seeing any of their work.  But, I'm unlikely to because I don't read comics anymore and they're never going to do anything outside of comics.  I think it's a shame.  I can see why the people concerned are involved, having either never created anything original themselves or they did, but it wasn't good enough to get DC out of their current hole.


It strikes me that, yes, I can understand why they took on Before Watchmen.  It will probably be the only opportunity they get in their careers to actually be attached to a project that anybody outside of comics has ever heard of.  So, I can see how that would be a great lure.  I don't think I would have done it, though, because to go down in history as the people who did the lame rewrites and prequels to Watchmen--well, that's not for me.  But, of course everybody has to make their own choices.  So, no, obviously I won't want anything to do with any of the people who are attached to this project at any point in the future, but that isn't a huge loss.


“All the nasty comments that I was making when I was angry--about the comics industry not having had an idea of its own in the last 40 years...it would seem that DC are really going that extra mile in trying to prove me incontrovertibly right.”

“...the reason why Watchmen was such an extraordinary book during its time--was that it was constructed upon literary lines.  It had a beginning, it had a middle, and it had an end.  It wasn't constructed as an endless soap opera that would run until everybody ran out of interest in it.”