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Alan Moore Confirms Details of ‘Watchmen’ Contract, Estrangement from Gibbons

In a new interview with Seraphemera.com, the legendary writer (and curmudgeon) Alan Moore goes on a tear once again, discussing his Watchmen contract with DC and why he believed he would get the rights back, why he and collaborator Dave Gibbons no longer speak (hint: Before Watchmen), and what he thinks of the creators who have signed on the for the prequels (and the people who want to read them). Deep breath everybody!Moore goes into great detail about the sequence of events that alienated him from DC Comics, and while it’s not a new story, it’s a thorough rendition. It also walks down the garden path of Moore’s estrangement from his Watchmen collaborator, Dave Gibbons. The final blow, according to Moore, was Gibbons acting as an intermediary for DC Comics in regards to the Before Watchmen prequels, and asking for Moore’s blessing:

I was then offered by an increasingly frantic-sounding Dave Gibbons an unspecified but really, really large sum of money to just give my blessing for them to do these sequels and prequels… and that he had been offered something in the region of a quarter of a million dollars to oversee the project — that it would be handled by the top talent in the industry, to which I said some quite intemperate things… So yeah, I was angry and I said some things which I still stand behind. And, that was the end of it. And, that was the end of my friendship with Dave Gibbons.

Moore also addresses the creators who have signed on for the prequels in extremely harsh terms, referring to them alternately as “possibly halfway decent writers and artists” and people who don’t even deserve the title of “creators”:

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.

His comments about the fans that would be interested in reading the books were also uncompromising, suggesting that you are either with him or against him:

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.

Moore also discussed the sticky issue of why his extensive use of characters in the public domain is different from what the Before Watchmen creators are doing, and while it still seems a bit difficult to parse, the answer seems to be that “stealing” and fundamentally changing works is better than “adapting,” but mostly that he thinks he did a better job of it:

In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I am not adapting characters. I am flat out stealing them in what I think is an honorable way… What we were doing was taking these often obscure literary characters and, when they were in the public domain, yes, we could use them and we could hopefully bring new ideas to them. There wasn’t any point in simply recycling these characters. I think that our interpretations of them have put them into new contexts, and have probably been truer to the originals than any of the official adaptations…. So, it is done with respect for the material, apart from our satirical touches–in which it is sometimes done with contempt for the material. But, this is a bit different to actually, one would have thought, breeching [sic] copyright and also breeching a lot of moral obligations.

It’s a point that has been addressed by some of those very creators he dismissed, including Before Watchmen: Doctor Manhattan writer J. Michael Stracyznski, who told the Hollywood Reporter shortly after the announcement of Before Watchmen that he would have “zero right to complain” about unauthorized prequels for Babylon 5, the sci-fi television show he created for Warner Bros:

The perception that these characters shouldn’t be touched by anyone other than Alan is both absolutely understandable and deeply flawed. As good as these characters are – and they are very good indeed – one could make the argument, based on durability and recognition, that Superman is the greatest comics character ever created. But I don’t hear Alan or anyone else suggesting that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should have been allowed to write Superman. Certainly Alan himself did this when he was brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein.

Finally, Moore offered the tantalizing and odd proclamation that he has a idea that would totally fix all the issues with DC Universe continuity, but since the publisher pissed him off, he’s not telling (mwhaha):

I know a way that they could have sorted out their continuity. I could have gotten rid of all of their problems for them. It would have been really simple. But, like I say, they unfortunately alienated me.

Read the full interview here for much more.

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