On “Dopey Watchmen Sequels” and the Impact
In the last couple of weeks some interesting news bits have come out about the new DC editorial. Foremost of which was this article at Wired where Alan Moore says he was offered the rights back to Watchmen in exchange for him writing some “dopey prequels and sequels”.
Also word has come out about Warren Ellis’ never-printed Hellblazer story, Shoot, finally being published later this year.
Some are seeing this as evidence that the new editorial regime at DC since Paul Levitz stepped down is doing little more than mining the same ground, with no progressive stance on the future, which you can get a good taste of that line of thought over here at The Beat, along with similar comments over at The Comics Reporter.
In the words of Jules Winnfield, allow me to retort. (And before I say another word, keep in mind this is all strictly my opinion/speculation based on years of being involved in the industry.)
I see this as a GOOD sign that DC is making these efforts. Paul Levitz is a brilliant man who did a great job running DC for many years. While it was never explicitly stated, it was pretty evident that part of his job, at least as he viewed it, was a combination of two rules:
1. Do NOT screw up the big three. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were viewed primarily by the higher ups as a way to sell action figures and underpants to children. The comics had to toe a line that didn’t draw negative attention to those properties that might affect those revenue streams. Anything that got enough attention to potentially interfere with those revenue streams had to be quashed. Hence books like Authority and The Boys being muddled with and stories like Kyle Baker’s about Superman’s baby sitter being quashed altogether.
2. Do not draw too much negative attention to DC Comics in general. Complain about “Shoot” not being published the first time around all you like, but it was a judgement call that may have saved DC Comics a world of trouble. DC has published a number of good, interesting, and progressive comics over the last 30 years, and if a story like “Shoot” got into the clutches of the 24 hour news cycle, it could have brought a ton of negative media attention to other books being published by DC at a time before the comic book medium and industry was viewed as valuable as it is these days. When “Shoot” was originally scheduled to be published, it is very realistic to think that, had that book gotten noticed by the mass media, someone higher up the ladder at Warner Brothers would wake up to a news headline about the comics being published and heads would start rolling after a phone call or two.
The environment of entertainment has changed dramatically, though. Comics are viewed by those in charge as an integral part of the overall entertainment complex. Movies with superheroes in a non-kid-friendly style like The Dark Knight, Kick-Ass, and Watchmen have paved the way for overall acceptance of superhero material designed for any age. The coming and going of adult movies based on adult comics like V for Vendetta, The Losers, and Constantine have shown that, at the least, the mass media seems to have better things to do with its time than scream about comic books that are corrupting our youth. The time for Paul Levitz’s style of ”flying under the radar” management at DC Comics has passed. Since Levitz is still writing comics for DC, I get the feeling that this realization happened on all ends at DC Comics, and he wasn’t entirely upset to be passing the mantle to the next group.
This realization allows for DC Comics to be riskier and print edgier books than ever before. So why are we only hearing about republished old stories and Watchmen sequels?
On the front of republished books, it’s simply a matter of timing. The lead time to create books, especially at DC, is pretty long. The current group in charge of DC has been in place less than a year. The first thing they can do is go digging through the drawers of completed material on hand and see what they can make a splash with in the market. Hence, reprinting “Shoot”, along with other little-seen or never-seen comics.
Why are we hearing about Watchmen sequels? Because Alan Moore, while being a brilliant writer, is also a blustering windbag. He will happily deride everyone else’s work in comics, while fully admitting he doesn’t read comics any longer. He also likes to sit around criticizing people like Geoff Johns for doing precisely the same kind of work that made Alan Moore famous. Alan Moore likes to also sit on his high horse whenever he feels he has been wronged by a publisher and then declare he will never work for them again, burning bridges all the while. It’s is very easy to sit on such a horse when it has a saddle made of cash from work like Watchmen, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and so on.
DC never said a word about Watchmen sequels or prequels to anyone publicly. If not for Alan Moore’s inability to stay quiet, we probably never would have heard more than rumors about them. What other negotiations or discussions is DC having behind the scenes that we will only hear about when a project has been finalized and is ready to be announced? What discussions will we never hear anything about because the deal can’t get done and the creators involved actually have an interest in working in comics sometime in the future instead of burning every bridge they cross?
I could be entirely wrong here. DC might be arranging a parade of sequels to Sandman, Y the Last Man, and Transmetropolitan. However, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. The people in charge of DC are smart, creative people. They’re smart enough to know that any Watchmen spin-off printed would be utterly vilified if it didn’t have Alan Moore as the writer, so they went to him and asked. Alan was the one who decided to go public with that information. DC is also smart enough to recognize that, in the long haul, there’s far more money and credibility to be gained by finding the next Watchmen or Sandman. DC on the whole has a good track record both creatively and in how they treat their creative talent. I look forward to seeing what the new crew has store for all of us.
What you’re hearing about now is just the beginning. On the whole, DC has a good reputation for enabling creative endeavors outside the norm. Let’s give it some time and see what DC announces over the next year before making any conclusions about the team at the company as a whole.
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