Retailers differ on banning cell phones and Before Watchmen

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mocca panel 600 Retailers differ on banning cell phones and Before Watchmen

Alex Zalben has a fine write-up on MoCCA’s ‘To Run A Comic Shop’ panel, which included Tucker Stone of Bergen Street Comics, Gabe Fowler of Desert Island, Robert Conte of Manhattan Comics and Brooklyn Comics, Thor Parker of Midtown Comics, and moderator (and former retailer) Alex Cox, currently of the CBLDF. As usual, that’s a very smart, modern lineup of merchants, and sure enough there was some interesting talk. For instance, some stores actually frown on cell phones when they are used to order comics online—using the brick and mortar store as a showroom of sorts:

Cox then started a discussion about how things have changed in retail over the years. “Stores, in a way, have become showrooms,” said Conti, talking about how customers will check prices on their phones before buying. “The customer has become my biggest competitor because of smartphones.” Fowler agreed with this point, asking that he politely asks people not to use the phones in their store. On the other hand, Stone said that, “Any customer who is going to come into our store to buy things purely on a price level is only going to be satisfied by the Internet.”


And then there’s…BEFORE WATCHMEN.

Stone chimed in that Bergen won’t be buying Before Watchmen, except for customers who pulled it now. “We won’t have it on the wall,” said Stone. “It’s not useful for graphic novels, it’s not useful for small press… It’s only useful for the weekly stuff.”

ComiXology’s David Steinberger then asked Stone from the audience to clarify why Bergen isn’t selling Before Watchmen, to which Stone said, “We’re gonna lose money, we’ll probably lose customers… It was a decision that was made. When I heard that decision, I said that’s a bad idea… That’s an explanation that I’ll have to give over and over again. As time has gone on, as I’ve seen online response to that project… This is just gross, and we don’t want to be part of this one. We’ll participate with the grossness they did to Kirby on the Avengers books, but this one…”


That’s a pretty gutsy move by Bergen Street. We had tweeted this during the panel and got a vociferous response from pros and retailers alike who felt that Bergen Street was being irresponsible and leaving money on the table.

To be continued, naturally.

Comments

  1. Glenn Simpson says:

    Now show me a retailer who won’t even provide it for pre-orders…THAT’s someone sticking to their guns…

  2. I put my shopping list on my smartphone. If my LCS told me not to use it in the store, I’d probably forget something that I was planning to buy.

  3. I’ve never met Mr. Stone, but kudos to him. I hope other retailers will follow his example. Why promote Before Watchmen when there are so many more ethically and artistically worthy comics out there to promote? Considering how boring and uninspired these comics will inevitably be, I suspect most retailers carrying them are going to lose their shirts.

  4. I still think that’s a bit irresponsible. As a retailer, we always stock things that we don’t necessarily like, otherwise it becomes our comic collection, not a store.

    And as far as sticking to your guns, don’t forget that those were mot Alan Moore’s characters. They were Charlton characters that DC made him change to avoid “ruining” them for future stories. If you want to stick to your guns, don’t stock the original Watchmen, or for that matter, League, Promethea, Tom Strong, V for Vendetta… the list goes on. These were all based on or utilizing someone else’s characters.

  5. Between shopping lists on Evernote, twitter, texts, email, and whatever else (I have three different gem spinning games and a jillion different Angry Birds I play idly), my smartphone is pretty essential when I’m out and about. I’m fine with not speaking on the phone in the store, but looking up whether or not I own something, looking for reviews, checking a price, or looking for a book that’s OOP but might be in stock or whatever… that sort of thing is unobtrusive and harmless. If someone hand-sells me something, then I’m not gonna be the guy who goes “Thanks, I’ll get it on Amazon.” That’s rude. But if I’m just looking around or whatever? I don’t know that owning a smartphone something I should be punished for. I doubt if most people who go to comic shops go there just to find out what’s hot and then retreat to Amazon after.

    I go to comic shops to get input and feedback on books, to pick someone’s brain or to talk comics with friends. That’s an entirely different experience than what I go to Amazon for, which is cheap books. If a shop owner told me to put my phone away, even politely, I’d probably just not come back. There’s an assumption of bad faith there, like stores that ask you to check your bag, that I’m not comfortable with at all.

    Bravo Bergen St. I like that shop a lot, and it’s nice to see them using their conscience while they operate.

  6. Oh please, it’s not “irresponsible.” No self respecting store owner would allow hardcore skinhead rhetoric in their shop just because someone somewhere may like it, which means there IS a line to be drawn somewhere. Bergen Street’s line is just shorter than other stores. Kudos to them for standing up for what they feel is right.

  7. Hardcore skinhead rhetoric and stalking Watchmen are two pretty different things.

  8. @BlackcatGreg

    Retailers choose what they carry in their stores all the time… it isn’t mandated. No store can carry every title that comes out, or would want to. The idea that it is somehow irresponsible to choose not to carry one is ridiculous. Why choose carry a book as completely bankrupt as Before Watchmen?

    Retailers have an enormous impact on what is purchased in their stores by what they order and what they recommend to their customers. Do you really want to have to recommend this travesty to anyone?

  9. Kudos to Tucker–people complain about retailers not carrying this thing or that thing, but to not carry a blockbuster book that you feel real antipathy towards is a hard decision. A costly one in terms of sales and goodwill from certain quarters/customers, but also the kind of thing that resonates going forward.

    There’s a cynicism to these kind of cashgrab events, where a person like Dan Didio can point to numbers and say, “look, retailers are clamoring for this, we’re just giving them what they want.” Having something to point to on the other side, “look, some retailers find this appalling and are seeking to distance themselves from it publicly,” is the kind of thing that will have benefits going forward, hopefully for Bergen Street, and definitely for the rest of a mainstream comics industry that seems riddled with Didio-style short-term cynical thinking.

    Chris Roberson quitting/getting fired from DC won’t destroy his career or DC’s bottom line, but it runs a flag up a pole, and gives other people thinking about their own flags something to consider. A respected shop like Bergen Street opting out of the Before Watchmen hype has a similar effect on the other side of the counter, and I applaud them for it.

  10. I also think there’s a really big difference between Jack Kirby and Alan Moore. Moore freely signed away his rights to these books. He was an adult. As a company, DC has every right in the world to do what they like. Will I read them? Probably. Will I like them? Who knows. That’s just the point. It isn’t out yet. Can’t we just wait and see?

  11. @Steven Stwalley Again, have you read this yet? How do you know it’s a travesty? I just want to have them on my shelves. People are interested. Why tell them they can’t buy it? If it sucks, future orders will go down. I respect Tucker’s opinion. I just don’t know understand how it can be viewed as taking a stand.

  12. Perks and Recs says:

    “This is just gross, and we don’t want to be part of this one. We’ll participate with the grossness they did to Kirby on the Avengers books, but this one…”

    Quick! There’s a man choking on hypocrisy on that stage! Does anybody know how to perform a Heimlich?

    After you help him out, come back here and gimme a hand, I’m stuck in the middle of a mega-eyeroll!

  13. For the love of money.

    Good for Bergen. He made his own decision. He’s not a biological android. I will stop by his shop when in his area.

  14. OK, I’ll give you this. maybe “irresponsible” wasn’t the right word. :)

  15. I think “responsible” was the word you were looking for.

  16. BlackcatGreg says:

    Not quite. Nice try, though.

  17. BlackcatGreg says:

    The thing is, probably 60% of the things on a comic shop’s shelf is created by someone else that a new creator is putting their own spin on. Why is Watchmen any different? If Spider-Man is on the shelf for people to try, Before Watchmen should be.

  18. Perry Toak says:

    “The thing is, probably 60% of the things on a comic shop’s shelf is created by someone else that a new creator is putting their own spin on.”

    I’m curious as to how you came by that number. I think it is highly arguable, and depends on the store in question.

    At least one of the stores that was participating on that panel is probably closer to 95%. If not higher.

  19. Perry Toak says:

    Sorry, that 95% is in reference to original material.

    I was unclear.

  20. BlackcatGreg says:

    @Perry That’s cool. I was going by my store’s inventory. Not a scientific study, obviously, just a guess. I don’t know of any place that stocks 95% creator owned material. That seems like a lot. Being a fan of indie stuff, though, I’d love to visit it!

  21. Watchmen is not Charlton.

    If this were a real life conversation, you bringing up Charlton is the point where polite people people change the subject and i simply turn my back on you without another word and walk away.

  22. Sure, I figure most [if not all] merchants curate what they sell but I used to “believe” I had the latitude to browse and “shop” for anything that was published any given week, as long as I was diligent and arrived the day it was officially released [when I dare skip the weekly release day, I check online to see what came out and contact my LCS and ask ‘em to kindly pull and hold my desired choices]. Now, I gotta know what I wanna buy in advance [what is it, 3-months advance notice?] so I can place an order? Buying print comix are becoming more of a job for the reader, huh? I’d hate to have to hunt for new comix.

  23. BlackcatGreg says:

    Sorry, Ayo. Watchmen was Charlton characters that DC made Moore change. That’s what I said before, and that’s what it is. End of story.

  24. BlackcatGreg says:

    Why didn’t anyone make this big of deal when DC relaunched the Spirit?

  25. DC didn’t relaunch screw Will Eisner multiple times, then relaunch the Spirit against his very publicly expressed wishes.

  26. BlackcatGreg says:

    @Dustin But that’s the thing. His signed all right to complain away when he cashed the checks, going for those “cash grabs” that everyone’s so fond of pointing out. And the last relaunch was after he was dead. So… not much chance of complaints being registered, no?

  27. BlackcatGreg

    >>>Sorry, Ayo. Watchmen was Charlton characters that DC made Moore change. That’s what I said before, and that’s what it is. End of story.

    No. Alan Moore took some superheroes tropes that have been used scores of times and reworked them — with the aid of Dave Gibbons — into a multi-leveled novel about power, responsibility and heroism that has been studied at college levels around the world.

    UNLIKE CHARLTON COMICS.

    End of story.

  28. BlackcatGreg says:

    Then why was the original proposal called “Who Killed Peacemaker?”, a Charlton character that debuted in 1966?

  29. BlackcatGreg says:

    Dick Giordano didn’t want to use the Charlton characters and forced Moore and Gibbons to rework them.

  30. Matthew Southworth says:

    Oy. Here come the same ill-informed arguments re: the Charlton characters. Watchmen characters are not the Charlton characters–originally Moore started working with the Charlton characters, then went in a different direction and created new ones. The Question, Captain Atom and Blue Beetle are not in WATCHMEN. Whether you think they’re similar characters to Charlton ones is a different discussion, whether you feel Alan Moore is a good writer who can create his own material is a different discussion.

    @BlackCatGreg–I can see your point about signing the check, signing away his rights, etc. I don’t agree with it, but I understand your point.

    But don’t weaken it with faulty analogies about the Spirit or other adaptations, reboots, etc. The Spirit reboot was sanctioned by Eisner’s estate; the Spirit was a series of short stories, not a complete and architecturally-constructed novel; Eisner had previously allowed other creators to work on Spirit stories, etc.

    So the two situations are entirely different.

  31. Matthew Southworth says:

    @BlackCatGreg–because it was an “original proposal”, not the final work. It’s not what the work was soon to become. If I begin writing a song in the key of A but later change the song to the key of E, that doesn’t mean I wrote a song in the key of A.

  32. BlackcatGreg says:

    The Spirit analogy was just meant to lighten the mood a little here, guys. A joke? Sheesh!

  33. Matthew Southworth says:

    @BlackCatGreg–sorry, didn’t catch the tone of the Spirit joke. Didn’t mean to overreact!

  34. BlackcatGreg: You want to lighten the mod but do you really think the average Charlton comic is the textual equivalent of what Moore and Gibbons created?

    I can take some eggs and make a shitty omelet no problem.

    An actual chef can take them and make a marvelous souffle.

    This constant Charlton comparison is saying it’s raw material and not the chef that we should take into account. “Oh they cook with eggs at Crappy Mcshits? I’m goin’!”

  35. BlackcatGreg says:

    And for the record, yes, Alan Moore is an amazing writer, but so are a lot of the other people involved in Before Watchmen. Why not give it a chance before you piss all over it?

  36. Blackcatgreg IS a biological android. Cinnamon sticks.

  37. @Dean Haspiel That concept goes to a shop owner’s business model. If Bergen doesn’t want to carry Before Watchmen, that’s his right, but if I’m his competitor I’m saying “thanks for letting me know beforehand so I can bump my orders.”

    People can debate the creative/moral merits of BeWa or Avengers vs. X-Men, but the fact remains that those types of books and the publicity that comes with them drive non-regular customers to comic shops, so I feel I wouldn’t be doing my job (much less stoking the interest of potential new customers) if I didn’t stock something Joe or Jane Q. Public would reasonably expect to find on my shelf.

  38. BlackcatGreg says:

    @TheBeat No, I certainly don’t think the average Charlton comic is the equivalent to Watchmen. I never said that. Watchmen ushered in an era of differently written comics. I just don’t think it’s the Bible. Hell, even the bible was rewritten! :) (smile to indicate joke this time)

  39. BlackcatGreg says:

    @scott Really? I’m an android because I want to stock a book on my shelf? C’mon, guys. This shouldn’t be so nasty.

  40. BlackcatGreg– It’s not about the quality of the books. It’s about how DC treats its talent, specifically their repeated mis-steps (to be extremely kind) with regard to Alan Moore and the cog-in-the-machine thinking that dominates their line right now.

  41. BlackcatGreg says:

    @Matthew No problem! :)

  42. BlackcatGreg: I just don’t see what the Charlton thing has to do with anything we are arguing now. And yes great people on BW books. Judgement has yet to be passed.

    I mean we know Hamlet is a great play so what if it was written because Edward Devere banged Shakespeare’s mom and then stole his notes and peed in his walled garden on the way out?

  43. Sure he signed “all his rights away”, in a contract that stipulated that they’d revert to him and Gibbons after a year of being out of print–which at the time, was every book always. Then DC a) made sure that the book never went out of print, even when it might have naturally done so otherwise, and b) screwed him a bunch of times in all kinds of ways, then after he left bought the company he went to and screwed him some more.

    And then are screwing him now, by publishing an enormously see-through 35-issue series of what people are calling “prequels” but sound like “years ago they had some other adventures”, against his wishes. 35 individual comic books that take place before a self-contained story widely hailed as one of the greatest comics ever made, and a watershed mark for comics in terms of conception and execution. Now cheapened by this parade of cheap cash-ins. Why just buy the $20 trade when you can spend another $125+ on a string of second-rate “other adventures??”

    Beyond whether or not you give a rip about Alan Moore’s wishes–it sounds like you do not–or Jack Kirby’s heirs or Siegel and Shuster’s heirs or etc. etc., I’m presuming you’re not interested in them either, the worst part of Before Watchmen is combination of

    1) the violation of Moore’s expressed wishes to leave he and Gibbons’ work alone, thank you very much,

    2) the enormously, cynically transparent structure of the event, turning a respected work of modern comics into a cheap sunglasses kiosk at the mall, and

    3) the event itself as emblem of DC and Marvel’s extraordinarily short-sighted thinking in this age of event comics. Why detail some of your most high profile, respected creators, and J. Michael Straczynski, to make new stories that weren’t necessary, that predate a comic that hasn’t been timely in 20 years? Why not make NEW CHARACTERS, NEW STORIES, NEW ADVENTURES, instead of exhuming the same old corpses and fondling their over-handled remains again and again?

  44. I don’t believe it’s the place of the shops or online stores to boycott or sensor which books are available to the customers. The argument that some might be offended is a slippery slope — the truth is that someone is ALWAYs offended by something, and then there are others who are offended by EVERYTHING.

    I’m not a big fan of the Bible or Koran, but Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or my local book store aren’t going to stop selling them because I find certain pages offensive.

    Let the customer decide which books should wither or thrive. And yes, if shops aren’t going to carry Before Watchmen because of the treatment of its creator, then they need to take a long hard look at some books created by a guy named Kirby. And those Siegel and Shuster guys — maybe their creation might need to be taken off the shelves as well.

    A lot of good and talented people worked on the Before Watchmen books, and I’m sure they did not entered into this project without thinking long and hard about the ramifications.

    What of Dave Gibbons rights — or did we forget that Watchmen had two creators? Why doesn’t Gibbons protest the handling of Watchmen? Here’s his own words from an interview on CBR: “A lot of folks feel that these characters shouldn’t be touched by anyone other than Alan, and while that’s absolutely understandable on an emotional level, it’s deeply flawed on a logical level,” he said in an exclusive interview with Comic Book Resources. “Based on durability and recognition, one could make the argument that Superman is the greatest comics character ever created. But neither Alan nor anyone else has ever suggested that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should ever be allowed to write Superman. Alan didn’t pass on being brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein, and he did a terrific job. He didn’t say ‘No, no, I can’t, that’s Len’s character.’ Nor should he have.”

    I realize my views may not be popular or make people feel good, but that doesn’t make them any less sound. Did Alan Moore get a bad deal? He was offered a bad deal and signed that bad deal. Did Moore have the opportunity to self-publish like so many other creators — yes, but he chose to go with DC. That was a business decision, a decision that he has come to regret. He made a deal with the same company that Siegel and Shuster sold Superman to — so why did he expect he would be treated any different?

  45. BlackcatGreg says:

    @Thebeat The Charlton thing (sorry I even brought it up) is only to illustrate that it’s perfectly ok to have new creators play in an established sandbox. Moore was originally trying to bring new life to an established line, much like DC’s doing now. That’s all. Whether that life needs to be injected into Watchmen remains to be seen. Probably not. But what if they’re great stories? What if they add instead of cheapen it? If it weren’t top flight creators, I wouldn’t even entertain that possibility.

    I know you haven’t passed judgement (my comment about pissing on it just happened to post after you posted to me. sorry…), but so many people on here are calling it trash. I was just trying to make a point.

  46. Matthew Southworth says:

    BIG BIG ups to Dustin for making a solid, reasonable summary of the argument against the project.

    Again, the quality of the books themselves is not the point people are making. The quality of the books doesn’t matter if you feel DC has screwed the original creator of the concept.

  47. BlackcatGreg says:

    @citizencliff Yes! Thank you! He was offered a bad deal, but thanks for realizing that he, indeed, signed that deal. No excuse to complain now.

    Of course DC and Marvel have screwed a lot of creators. That’s what happens when you deal with large corporations. If you don’t know that, maybe you shouldn’t be dealing with large corporations.

    That’s why companies like Image, Dark Horse, Top Shelf, etc. exist. To help sustain creator owned books.

    If you want to own your own characters, it’s probably a pretty bad idea to create them for a huge conglomerate.

  48. Will Naslund says:

    “This constant Charlton comparison is saying it’s raw material and not the chef that we should take into account.”

    On the other hand, *this* argument that ONLY the contributions and wishes of the putative ‘chef’ (Moore) should be taken into account — and what the ‘sous chef’ (Gibbons) and the folks who provided the ‘ingredients’ (Charlton, though Moore did tweak the ‘recipe’ a bit) and the ‘kitchen’ (DC) contributed is without value or merit — seems equally ill-conceived and cynical in its own way to me.

  49. Mikael says:

    How quickly things start to look like Newsarama around here. And this place is supposed to be above the “fanboyish” dialogue. Ha.

  50. @Blackcatgreg: “Of course DC and Marvel have screwed a lot of creators. That’s what happens when you deal with large corporations.”

    It’s obvious that we’re on two different sides of the river here. On the other hand, it’s clear that there’s a bright future for you in DC’s marketing division.

  51. Will Naslund says:

    “3) the event itself as emblem of DC and Marvel’s extraordinarily short-sighted thinking in this age of event comics. Why detail some of your most high profile, respected creators, and J. Michael Straczynski, to make new stories that weren’t necessary, that predate a comic that hasn’t been timely in 20 years? Why not make NEW CHARACTERS, NEW STORIES, NEW ADVENTURES, instead of exhuming the same old corpses and fondling their over-handled remains again and again?”

    Respectfully, this is a rather silly argument. New Characters/Adventures vs. Old Characters/Adventures is a false choice. I like a great deal of the new creator-owned work being done today (Chew, Fatale, Bendis’ Scarlet, etc.), but I also like reading a good Batman yarn now and then — and I suspect most comic readers are like me in that regard.

    Shared-world universe stories (with superheroes) are a unique artform unto themselves, and as such have a certain unique appeal. That really shouldn’t be that hard a concept to grasp.

    As for ‘necessary’ — who and/or what criteria should determine whether a story was necessary? Was Batman: LOTDK ‘necessary’? Was Daredevil: Born Again? Or about Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier (or his Parker adpatations, for that matter)? How about Moore’s own ‘Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow’?’Necessary’ or not, I’m glad those creators used those ‘old’ characters to make some great comics.

    There’s a lot of great creator-owned work out there, and I’m happy to extol its virtues — but I’m equally happy to roll my eyes at those who think they have to trash classic characters and/or the practice of WFH in order to do so.

  52. This is great news. I have a lot of respect for these people. It’s never okay to screw the creator. Glad people are starting to finally take a stand against it.

  53. jacob goddard says:

    Yes yes yes, its a complex and nuanced issue, but my first gut reaction “i’d be more likely to go to a store because they didn’t stock Before Watchmen”.
    The Wednesday crowd are unlikely to abandon their loyal lcs because they don’t have any copies of a specific issue. Probably happens all the time with the surprise hits.
    But for people like me?
    They just became a destination shop.

  54. Will, I’m not saying no one should make comics with existing characters, but Watchmen? It’s like doing “The Early Adventures Of Jay Gatsby”–it’s not necessary because Watchmen is a closed circuit, a finite, wholly contained story. Batman and Superman and Spider-Man are existing characters whose stories have always been episodic genre tales, often retreading the same old ground because biff-bam-pow, comics are usually for kids. But Watchmen is for adults.

    Another way to come at it–Watchmen was a piece of art, whether or not you like the art, or whatever its flaws might have been. It grappled with issues both in and out of its pages, both contextual and subtextual. Before Watchmen is just money–it’s just a book of coupons. There’s no reason for it to be there, except for fan service and DC’s bottom line.

    I’d argue DC could expend the same amount of energy, marketing, fake viral “buzz”, etc., and create new characters, new IP’s, new directions that over time would make MORE money for the company, in whatever markets or media or venues. If DC wants to be purely about their bottom line, I think that’s perfectly fine. But doing it this way, in such an unnecessarily exploitative way, engendering so much ill will toward the company and by extension the creators who work for that company– it’s stupid. It’s bad business. It’s smoke and mirrors, and behind the smoke and mirrors are just more smoke, more mirrors, and nothing of real value or import.

    I don’t blame anyone who’s excited about Before Watchmen. I don’t think it’s bad at all to want to read it or buy it or whatever. I do find the whole project reprehensible, cloddish, and backwards, but there are a lot of comics I don’t like. That’s just my opinion, for what that’s worth. But I think when people like Chris Roberson and shops like Bergen Street make a stand on issues they find unbearably problematic, I think it’s worth something.

    We tend to view these issues as if we all had law degrees– “now now, hold on, we all know he signed that contract, too bad dumdum”, but that’s frankly gross reasoning. If you think that comics are art, then it follows that comics are artists. And if you value people making art, don’t act like bad contracts are zingers that big bad corporations should be expected to throw at artists! Don’t act like Siegel and Shuster had law degrees and were savvy businessmen. Don’t pretend that Jack Kirby didn’t build virtually the entire Marvel Universe in just a few years, only to later have most of his originals stolen while under Marvel’s care, and have to renounce all rights in order to get the few remaining pieces back. Jack Kirby was a soldier and an artist and a visionary. Alan Moore revolutionized “literate” comics a dozen times in the 80’s and 90’s. We should treat these artists with the respect their creations and their sweat have earned, not line up to come up with clever reasons why they deserved what they got.

  55. Michael M says:

    I agree with Citizen Cliff’s point. Stores are in the business of selling, not censoring. If I hear of a favorite writer or artist putting out a book called Hitler and the gay bashers rape some babies, with the proceeds going to the KKK, I really don’t care. I want to read that book. I like comic shops that sell EVERYTHING. If a shop doesnt’ want to be obvious about promoting BW, then that’s awesome. If a comic shop only want’s to promote Indies, then that’s awesome too. But carry everything or chances are I won’t be buying stuff at your shop because I don’t care at all about your personal morals or lack of them.

    Regarding the tangent about Charlton and Chefs and Songs and what not, I’ll just say that this comment by Will Naslund says it all:

    “On the other hand, *this* argument that ONLY the contributions and wishes of the putative ‘chef’ (Moore) should be taken into account — and what the ’sous chef’ (Gibbons) and the folks who provided the ‘ingredients’ (Charlton, though Moore did tweak the ‘recipe’ a bit) and the ‘kitchen’ (DC) contributed is without value or merit — seems equally ill-conceived and cynical in its own way to me.”

    This. Period. It takes a village. You hippy creators lining up for Kickstarter funds should know that.

  56. Dean
    >> Sure, I figure most [if not all] merchants curate what they sell but I used to “believe” I had the latitude to browse and “shop” for anything that was published any given week, as long as I was diligent and arrived the day it was officially released [when I dare skip the weekly release day, I check online to see what came out and contact my LCS and ask ‘em to kindly pull and hold my desired choices]. >>

    The number of comics stores that carry everything that’s published any given week is probably zero. If you believed that you were seeing it all by shopping early, you were probably missing out on a lot of stuff that never made the shelves at all.

    Cliff:
    >> I don’t believe it’s the place of the shops or online stores to boycott or sensor which books are available to the customers.>>

    Every store limits what books are available to its customers. Heck, even grocery stores limit what groceries are available to their customers.

    >> Alan didn’t pass on being brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein, and he did a terrific job. He didn’t say ‘No, no, I can’t, that’s Len’s character.’>>

    Considering Len was the one offering him the job, it would have been a very odd response.

    Secrets behind the comics revealed: When I was trying to sell stuff to DC, Len invited me to come up with SWAMP THING and JLA fill-in ideas, because he’d offered Alan whichever of the two books he wanted. Whichever one Alan didn’t take, he’d need a fill-in for. So Alan took SWAMP THING and I got to write JLA #224. [My Swamp Thing fill-in ideas made it into other works, none of them involving Swamp Thing.]

    kdb

  57. I’ve been informed that my local shop won’t be carrying ‘Before Watchmen’ either except for subscribers. They actually went so far as to remove the cover of this month’s Previews catalog (featuring a Jae Lee drawing of Ozymandias) from the store copy. Strikes me as leaving money on the table, but I understand the decision.

    Then again, I wasn’t going to buy them anyway.

  58. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Dustin Harbin–re: “if you think of comics as art, you must then agree that comics creators are artists”, I agree with that.

    But it raises an interesting distinction–can a corporation make art? Can it hire craftsmen–and subvert their artistic identities to its own commercial whims–and still make art? I don’t want to say it can, but I sort of think it can.

    It further raises the question of whether something conceived out of non-artistic motives can become art, which again, I think it can.

    Maybe in the long run we should consider there to be two creators of a given mainstream comic–the “artist” and the “corporation” (however many people there are on the artist side and however many people on the corporate side). Certainly I’d say that’s the case with Before Watchmen, and I’d argue it’s also true of virtually any superhero comic from Marvel and DC.

    (hope it comes through that I’m not trying to refute anything you’re saying; I agree with EVERYThing you’re saying, and it leads me to this next stage of questioning)

  59. Alan didn’t pass on being brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein, and he did a terrific job.

    These arguments about Alan Moore and Swamp Thing never make sense to me. Moore was at least the fifth writer to use the character in an extended run (including throughout the end of the Challengers of the Unknown series before Martin Pasko’s run). Swampy was clearly meant to have ongoing serial adventures like the other umpteen dozen DC heroes.

  60. Matt:
    >> Maybe in the long run we should consider there to be two creators of a given mainstream comic–the “artist” and the “corporation” (however many people there are on the artist side and however many people on the corporate side).>>

    If you do that, it naturally extends to considering Maxwell Perkins the co-author of all the books he edited, by promoting anyone who has input into a project to the level of co-author. The work-for-hire deals already make the corporation the legal author of the work; I think that’s more than enough.

    Side example: I once, at Norman Mailer’s request,* wrote a long letter advising him on how to finish HARLOT’S GHOST. Does that make me a co-author?

    [*not a direct request – Mailer asked his agent for advice, his agent farmed the job out to one of the VPs, and the VPs dropped 750 pages of manuscript on my desk and told me to get going.]

    Or, on the Charlton’s rights side of the equation: Lawrence Block once wrote a novel about a private eye named Markham, a licensed tie-in to a TV show. When he was done, his agent and editor thought the novel was good enough to stand on its own, so Block reworked the manuscript so it was about a PI of his own invention, and sold the book as an original. [He also wrote another Markham novel, to fulfill that contract.] Does that mean the TV company that made the Markham series has some sort of right to Block’s new PI character? He didn’t change the characters at the proposal stage, after all. He wrote the whole book, finished it, then rewrote it to be a new character.

    I think various people inspire, advise and suggest, but that doesn’t make them co-authors. Ditko owns Mr. A, DC owns the Question, and Rorschach is tied up in whatever the Watchmen rights are. But even though they’re creatively related, they’re different characters, as are TV’s Markham and Block’s “Ed London,” who took his place in Block’s manuscript.

    kdb

  61. Al™ says:

    It’s likely that my local stores will carry Before Watchmen, and I will check out a copy of each, to decide whether or not to spend my disposable income on them. I won’t preorder any of them, I want to flip through a store copy first. They can have the risk in exchange for the markup. I’ll check out the same copy that they read on their breaks.

    But I appreciate that they are (likely to be) offering me the choice to buy or not.

    It would irritate me if a local manager, who in my mind represents the products of Diamond and the comics industry, tells me that they are not allowing my access to purchase well publicized comic titles because of their personal opinions.

  62. The Watchmen/Swamp Thing analogy is dumb. Len Wein knew when he co-created Swamp Thing with Berni Wrightson – and let’s face it, Swampy as a character probably made such an impression because of Wrightson’s art! – that it was work for hire and that others would one day work on the character. Moore knew this too when he created John Constantine. Moore even provided an enthusiatic pull quote for a later Constantine run written by none other than Brian Azzarello.

    When Moore and Gibbons were working on Watchmen, their understanding was they would own the characters and have a say in any future work. This was an understanding which was seemingly shared by DC Comics at the time, considering their proud proclamations they made of what a wonderful creator-friendly deal they’d given the pair. The fact that DC have placed such a premium on getting endorsements from the Watchmen creators should also make it clear that this particular example is atypical.

    They are different situations and DC apologists constantly trying to equate the two is not only unconvincing but a sign of desperation on their part. As far as I can see, Moore doesn’t seem to have any problem with people working on characters like Constantine. He knew the score when he put him in that issue of Swamp Thing.

    The issue isn’t people working on other peoples characters. The issue is specific to Watchmen in Moore’s case as he feels this deal in particular was one which DC screwed him and Gibbons on because they did not hold up their side of the deal.

    As for the Charleton characters thing: come on. There’s more than enough articles and comments and everything else written about that now that it shouldn’t even need to be debunked at this stage. Moore and Gibbons had their idea, DC suggested using certain characters, Moore said “yeah, ok”, DC saw the outline and decided they wanted the characters alive at the end, Moore said “yeah, ok, whatever” and made up his own characters.

    If you want to say these characters were anything more than sharing basic tropes of generic superheroes and all such instances are therefore out of play, we’ll essentially be left with Superman, Doc Savage and The Phantom/Shadow (whoever came first).

    And Squirrel Girl.

    As for original article: I applaud the store for sticking to their guns and prioritising their principles over profit. As the article states of course, the guy feels like he might lost customers out of it due to the amount of bad press so it’s his decision to make and I’m sure he’s aware of the possible consequences one way or the other. His store, his call.

  63. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Kurt–agreed. I guess the thrust of my point re: two creators, corporate and writer/artist is directed at something like event-driven comics. Never having been in the room for one of those editorial meetings at which A vs X or 52, etc. is conceived, I can’t really say.

    That Mailer anecdote is interesting, too! I’ll quiz you on that one of these days.

  64. Well the guy who wants to read” Hitler and the gay bashers rape some babies, with the proceeds going to the KKK” is on my side — I’ve got that going for me.

    “Another way to come at it–Watchmen was a piece of art, whether or not you like the art…”

    So no art should be reinterpreted? So images like Warhol’s screen prints of The Mona Lisa or The Last Supper should be forbidden? Have you alerted the Museum of Modern Art or The Tate? What of Picasso’s versions of works by old masters http://bit.ly/Il6raE ? Should they be slashed and burned? And let’s not forget Roy Lichtenstein, who’s recreation of works by John Romita, Irv Novick, Mike Sekowsy, Joe Kubert and many others, showed comics in a light as to be much more than pulp disposable pulp http://bit.ly/JO0dA7. Should Lichtenstein’s work be wiped from the museums, galleries and history books?

    How is art exempt from commercialization? Especially if said “art” has been sold commercially for decades? What art has ever been exempt? Has Beethoven been used for TV commercials? Has Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” not appeared on T-shirts? Van Gogh on placemats? Shakespeare’s work turned into tacky movies? Where is the art that is actually being protected? And whom and what is it being protected from?

    This logic would deny us any covers of cherished songs, adaptations of books to film, or even sequential art versions of classic stories. This logic would’ve denied us Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner. In other words, this would be a pretty dull world.

    True, Moore’s case is different, because it goes against his wishes. But they are only wishes, and not rights, because he signed away the rights to control his work. That’s unfortunate, for him, and maybe for us — but it is reality. And maybe by being so outraged and having such lively conversation, we will ensure that it never happens again.

  65. Peter Stern says:

    What’ve they got? Ten years of comics retail experience between them?

  66. Nick Jones says:

    “I don’t believe it’s the place of the shops or online stores to boycott or sensor which books are available to the customers.”

    So comic book shops are obligated to stock every comic book any company ever publishes, because otherwise they’d be guilty of censorship? If not, why would Before Watchmen be something that automatically must be on a retailer’s shelf as opposed to Rachael Rising or Chew or anything else?

    “I realize my views may not be popular or make people feel good, but that doesn’t make them any less sound.”

    Forget soundness, I don’t even think that they’re valid. :p

  67. “So comic book shops are obligated to stock every comic book any company ever publishes, because otherwise they’d be guilty of censorship? If not, why would Before Watchmen be something that automatically must be on a retailer’s shelf as opposed to Rachael Rising or Chew or anything else?”

    That’s not what I was inferring and I’m pretty sure you know that what I was talking about was books that are embroiled in controversy. After Watchmen is a series of comics, and it violates no one’s rights and is offense to some solely for the reason that they want it to not exist. Comic shops are free to carry whatever books they want or not carry, but in this case I question the wisdom. It seems more of an emotional decision. If we’re going to back Moore, let’s back Kirby, Siegel and Shuster. Let’s make a list of all those who we believe have been wronged and ban those books if we’re going to ban Before Watchmen. But who decides? Not the consumer. I find that dangerous in any market, not just comics.

  68. Kurt–
    Again, it was a belief [a wish?] that I had access to ALL comix but, of course, that’s just impossible. In NYC [where I live], Jim Hanley’s Universe does a pretty good job of getting what’s offered via Diamond and whoever else decides to contact them to sell their self-published wares. So, I can always pick up the latest issue of whatever Steve Ditko is writing & drawing, plus, mini-comix/indie-fare/et al. I have noticed that most comix shops don’t order everything that’s offered in the Diamond catalog but the good stores [like Bergen Street Comics] always order for me what they didn’t order for the store [or what sold out before I arrived]. I have to get used to who is watching the watchmen and decide if it’s worth my while to shop there, is all.

    My general point was this: I never would have pre-ordered Boom! Comics’ PLANET OF THE APES series from a catalog. Sorry. However, when I saw a copy of issue #1 sitting on the comix racks, I picked it up, flipped thru it and was blown away. I bought it, read it, and became a fan, and now, PLANET OF THE APES, is one of my favorite monthly comics being produced today and I always recommend the series to other people [which raises sales]. All because my LCS over-ordered the book and allowed me the opportunity to “shop” for it and get hooked.

  69. “So comic book shops are obligated to stock every comic book any company ever publishes, because otherwise they’d be guilty of censorship? If not, why would Before Watchmen be something that automatically must be on a retailer’s shelf as opposed to Rachael Rising or Chew or anything else?”

    Seriously? You and all the others making the same comment know better than that. Of course a comic book shop isn’t obligated to stock EVERY comic book any company ever publishes – they are supposed to stock every comic book that they feel they can make a profit off of. That’s an economic decision and I’d respect and shopkeeper that makes decisions on that basis – but any comic book shop owner that decides not to stock a book because of their personal politics, when they know full well their customers want that book, would lose my business to another comic book shop owner that understands their sole job is to be a facilitating middleman. It is not to be a social activist.

    The market is democratic. If you don’t like the idea of ‘Before Watchman’ – don’t buy it. If it’s such a clear moral statement, then you should feel comfortable others won’t buy it either. But trying to prevent others from exercising their right to buy it is pretty distasteful. Denigrating writers and artists for telling stories they find interesting to tell is distasteful.

    The prime thesis at the heart of the comic book industry is that every character has another great story about them. We go to our LCS every month with hope of that idea. Sometimes we go years waiting for that next great story for our favorite character. Eventually it comes along. Why should the characters in ‘Watchmen’ be different?

    My interpretation of the story is that it was the gathering of a bunch of characters that had reached a point in their life where they were no longer interesting. They were old, flabby, and unhappy. They had a strong past. I can’t wait to see people like Darwyn Cooke and Brian Azzarello open up that past.

  70. Bizarro-Wuxtry in Athens, GA is the local shop that Rich is referring to above, and I’m the guy who has opted not to carry BEFORE WATCHMEN on the rack. I’m getting copies for everyone who’s pre-ordered, but that’s it. Sure, I could sell a decent amount of these (at least initially, but I can do just as well allocating that share of my budget to getting more copies of HARK, A VAGRANT and extra WALKING DEAD trades, which are a safer bet with a longer shelf life, and don’t make me feel like a creep for stocking them. Yes, DC apparently has the right to publish this, but I’ve got the right not to carry it.

  71. Chris Hero says:

    @Dean Haspiel

    Right on. I agree with your point…and I’m going to paraphrase here…that it feels like figuring out what comics are out is a responsibility of the reader.

    BTW – You did an awesome job on the Harvey Pekar panel!

  72. CitizenCliff:

    “So no art should be reinterpreted? So images like Warhol’s screen prints of The Mona Lisa or The Last Supper should be forbidden? (etc) ”

    I think there’s a pretty clear difference between work that’s clearly public domain, and work where the author is standing right there saying “Um, I’d really rather that you didn’t, thanks”

    “But who decides? Not the consumer. I find that dangerous in any market, not just comics.”

    Of course the customer decides — if the customer doesn’t approve of the actions the store has taken, the customer goes to another store. Enough people do that, and the store goes out of business.

    But I hardly think that’s going to happen — there’s plenty of other books to sell.

    I’ve done many different “Yeah, sorry, I’m not participating” drills in the past — as old as the MONTHS I didn’t rack Marvel comes when HWD was the sole distributor, to as recently as not stocking titles that were polybagged for the sole reason of a digital code when those comics were not solicited as such (AVENGING SPIDER-MAN, recent “Ultimate” comics), and never once have I lost a regular customer from these stances. In fact, during the HWD fiasco, my sales went UP pretty substantially.

    I don’t carry Glenn Danzig’s comics because of how he acted during the censorship case over VEROTIKA, and I don’t rack-stock variant covers (when given a choice) because I find them bad for our market, and I’m sure there are scores more examples if I thought for longer than 30 seconds, but through all of the various choices I’ve made over the last 23 years, sales have generally always gone up (recessions aside), and we’re on track to have our single best year of those 23, so clearly those kinds of decisions are not commerce-threatening.

    I totally think it’s great that Wuxtry and Bergen St. have the courage to act upon their principles. In this case, I’m not doing the same, largely because, as Tucker noted, it’s a little weird to take a stance on WATCHMEN and not do the same for The House That Jack Built — especially when Gibbons is apparently fine with it, *and* there’s never been any suggestion of impropriety with the payment of WATCHMEN revenues. But that’s neither here nor there — everyone gets to make those decisions for themselves… that’s how a free market WORKS.

    (Me, I’m thinking that economic darwinism will be the real winner of the argument — if any of these books drop below, say, 50k, then we’ll know that the market really didn’t actually want them in the first place. I’m emotional prepared to brutally slash my orders if the first issues don’t go over.)

    -B

  73. LeftofObama says:

    I will be dancing in front of the store , when Bergen Street Comics finally closes its doors. This has to be the stupidest , most short-sighted move , i have ever seen a comic book store make. The biggest comic book event of the year , and they are passing. IDIOTS!!!

  74. LeftofObama says:

    “Bizarro-Wuxtry in Athens, GA” Another place that will not get my $$$’s when i travel . Listen up , store owners , let your customers decide what you should carry. Making a decision that will eventually lead you to closing your doors for good , is not good business sense. Sorry , these books are going to be beyond huge.

  75. One factor in my decision was that I’m really not all that convinced that these books (at least the ones not by Cooke) aren’t going to crater in sales after the first issue or two. All too often on big events like this, the unsold later issues outweigh the profits from the beginning, creating a net loss for us. That’s more a problem with Marvel than DC for us, but I’ve eaten a lot of product in similar situations in the past. As to the shameful history of both companies… don’t think for a moment that I wouldn’t LOVE to have a Marvel-free workplace, but that’s not really feasible at the moment. I don’t exactly go out of my way to promote them, though.

  76. @BlackcatGreg
    -“Whether that life needs to be injected into Watchmen remains to be seen. Probably not. But what if they’re great stories? What if they add instead of cheapen it?”

    The story of Watchmen takes place at the most important part of the character’s lives. This, by definition of drama, makes Watchmen the greatest story of Watchmen, there is no hope of Before Watchmen being as great, or even great stories of their own right…this is the problem with prequels.

    Before Watchmen might turn out to be “entertaining”, but there is no shot that it will be “great” unless the story focused on new characters who have their own moment for greatness. For Watchmen it was a story called WATCHMEN.

    Therefore, Before Watchmen is, at best, bonus material. Which unfortunately ruins Watchmen with unnecessary, burdensome story that only encumbers greatness with dower weight. We are forced to recognize these prequels exist, and that ruins a great story.

  77. You guys, remember that retailers are the first consumers in the direct market. It’s not their “duty” to carry anything at all, and most of them carry ANYTHING at an enormous risk. They buy every single one of those comics before their customers ever do, and when they don’t sell that’s tough tetons. As Devlin points out, you can kill profits from a high selling issue instantly with low sales on the next issue. The retailer takes all the risk, hopefully squeaking out a profit in an increasingly competitive (read: Amazon, digital) marketplace.

    So there’s no “duty”. Comics shop owners aren’t running hospitals, you can’t show up bleeding and say “I don’t have insurance, stitch me up, you’d better have Before Watchmen here for me to read.”

  78. LeftofObama – “This has to be the stupidest , most short-sighted move…”

    Funny, that’s what I think when I see publishers screwing over their creators.

  79. @LeftofObama — while I don’t agree with Bergen Street and Bizarro-Wuxtry’s decision, I would never wish anyone, especially a comic shop to go under. I’ve been in Bergen Street and I like the store and staff was friendly and helpful. I also would not avoid the store because of their stance on Watchmen.

    It’s okay to debate, let’s not hate.

    @Brian Hibbs — I salute you on that variant crapola. I’m not familiar with Danzig’s reaction to the censorship, sounds interesting.

    As for Mr. Moore’s situation, I can only say that I wish things were different (as I’m sure he does too). But his wishes and his contract are not one in the same. He forfeited his right to control his creation when he signed with DC. He may not like it, we may not like, but it is a binding contract. There are no do-overs when one day we find we don’t like the deal we’ve made.

    Has DC botched their relationship with the greatest living writer of comics? I believe so. Had they made a deal that was fair and equitable for both parties, it’s conceivable that Moore would’ve stayed with them for decades. Their behavior was shortsighted, predatory, and just bad business. So they lose, and to some extent we all lose.

  80. Toby Cypress — a great point about the characters and their lives.

    People arguing about Watchmen again. Amazing.

  81. LeftofObama says:

    Hibbs , has it right , which is why am so annoyed. Based on their logic for not carrying Be-Watchmen. They should not be in the comic book biz, I mean , how can they justify selling Superman , Spider-Man , Hulk , Avengers , X-Men , Ghost Rider , etc and not Be-Watchmen. ( I mean think about it , we could probably go days making a list of titles )

    The logic makes absolutely no sense. It would be similar to music store not selling : the Monkees , Tom Petty , Jimi Hendrix , the Beatles , Marvin Gaye , Michael Jackson , Chuck Berry , Little Richard , etc , who at various times were totally screwed over by their record labels , at various times all of the above had releases in stores , that they were generating $0 royalties on, thru bad contracts , bad biz decisions , etc.

    I can not remember any record store ever, stating we are not carrying the Monkees Arista comps , the Hendrix Warner rehashes , the Beatles Polydor material , etc . Because we do not support the record label biz practices.

    Leave it to the consumer to decide , what he or she wants to support (and enjoy).

  82. LeftofObama, you do not put a space on either side of punctuation.

    Just a style note.

    Also plenty of stores over the years have said they would not carry NWA, Ice-T, Marilyn Manson, etc etc etc. I don’t have time to follow the music biz, but I’m sure right now WalMart is refusing to carry something because of tits or something.

    Bergen Street customers are free to preorder BeWa–or go somewhere else. Freedom of choice.

  83. Dave Hartley says:

    Illuminating set of posts and threads on Before Watchmen. Nice one Beat.

    So store owners are just enablers who have a duty to stock whatever consumers might want and refusing to carry stuff is ‘censorship’. So called ‘creators’ are just enablers who have a duty to fulfill however publishers interpret their contracts and to shut the fuck up. The only people allowed the privilege of moral agency are the kind of consumers arguing this – presumably because in their ‘I Am Legend’ moral universe none of these other people really exist, except in the faceless way that Chester Brown’s sex workers do.

    Must be frustrating to be constantly reminded that the real world isn’t just a narrative structured around the interests of solitary readers. Frustrations for which one coping strategy is a drip feed of undemanding, emotionally immature, faux violent and perpetually unresolved power fantasies. Guess it makes sense that if you stand between these babymen and their ‘formula’ it’s toys away.

  84. goggles says:

    If a store owner (or a customer) where so against BW to point of boycotting then why stock (or purchase) anything by DC at all?

    The treatment of Moore is done by the folks leading the publisher not just those involved in BW.

    I understand the statement made by this shop but I suppose I don’t quite understand why they just target BW and DC as a whole (beyond the obvious: making money).

    If folks really wanted to stand up then wouldnt they reject the entire publisher rather than just the banner of the project? Just curious.

  85. toby cypress says:

    Bergen Street Comics has said they are carrying the book for customers who order. No Boycott. Seems good business to asses inventory. Taking a look at Before Watchmen, there are many warning signs of retail disaster. This project has a very real potential of costing retailers money with a 35 issue commitment, a fickle consumer, and a notorious production.

  86. LeftofObama says:

    googles,has it right,that is my whole point.

    And then why stop at DC, Marvel has (and is still ) treating its original creators , even worse.

    If you are going to make a stand for this reason,be consistent.

    And Heidi,you are correct (and in agreement with me) on the music issue. There is no music store that does not carry something because of a companies business practices to the talent.

    Yes,stores may opt out of carrying something (or carry a censored version) of an artist,because of the cd’s lyrics or artwork,that makes perfect sense (well,truthfully to me it makes no sense) but i can see were they are coming from.

    My whole point is if you are making stand , then make a stand , be consistent and put yourself out of business. If the ethics of the BW bother you , then so should the ethics of selling any DC title (and esp Superman)

    Likewise you should be in horror for selling any Kirby created Marvel concept. Also GR , Spidey and on and on.

    Simply put you should not be media retail of any type.
    Let’s make a list of companies that are in legal situations with creators: Apple,just about every video game company,again the music biz,the film industry,Microsoft.

    Basically if you are media retail,you can not make a stand of this type or you will be out of business.

    DC in all fairness,since the 1980’s pretty much treats its creators better then any other media type company.

    So why pick and choose them and then pick BW only.

    And truthfully this is very short sighted.This will be the biggest comicbook event of the year.The preview art is “all that and then some”. This will not be a “miss” I guarantee this!

  87. LeftofObama – they’re not boycotting the book. It’s there for customers who want to order it. What they’ve said is they’re not promoting it by having it “on the wall”. Anyone who wants the book can put it on their pull list and the store will have it for them.

    If anything, I’d say that’s a workable compromise between business sense and business principles.

  88. LeftofObama says:

    PreacherCain,then shouldn’t that be their position on all DC and Marvel titles.
    My point being,be consistent.
    I mean it makes no sense,for them to rack any Kirby created title/character,with all of the Kirby legal drama going on.
    Why single out BW?

  89. “so why pick and choose them and then pick BW only. ”

    Because they want to is really the only reason you need. Don’t like it? Don’t shop there.

    “This will be the biggest comicbook event of the year.”

    There’s virtually no chance that BW will come in at even half of the sales of AvX, so that seems like a pretty ridiculous statement to me.

    Hell, I ordered more copies of BATMAN INC than I did of even the best-looking BW book, and I ordered more copies of DIAL H than I did of the worst looking ones…

    -B

  90. Thanks, Chris Hero. It’s always fun to wax Pekar.

    On a final note: Goodbye impulse buy?

  91. @LeftofObama- “DC in all fairness,since the 1980’s pretty much treats its creators better then any other media type company.”

    where are your facts?
    Are you aware that Warner Bros. just counter sued the Jerry Siegel team?

    @LeftofObama- “The preview art is “all that and then some”. This will not be a “miss” I guarantee this!”

    Oh My…pretty art guarantees a blockbuster?
    I wish you were my agent.

    Before Watchmen might have you excited, but it’s another summer mess for retailers who have to choose between packing limited shelf space with variety, or a 35 issue gimmick.

    Retailers have to choose which DC/Marvel titles to buy, and which to avoid.

    I don’t see Bergen Street as singling out Before Watchmen, I see them making a decision based on space, taste, and consumer demand. Yes their rhetoric makes it sound personal with good reason.

  92. @Devlin Thompson

    Thanks for taking a stand against this ugliness (and making a sensible business decision), Mr. Thompson. Looking in the crystal ball, I see a lot of retailers with basements filled with longboxes of Before Watchmen issues in three years.

  93. legitsquare says:

    The market dictates success.

    Bergen seems hypocritical and extremely short sighted.

    Combined with the fact that Bergen also focuses mostly on poor selling indie-fare, they don’t seem to have a sustainable business model.

    Bergen: “I’m not ordering things that I think will sell so that people will pay attention to me and fawn over me on my favorite site – The Beat”

    that’s a recipe for business disaster.

  94. @Dean Haspiel

    Dean, if I am following you correctly, it seems bizarre to me (especially considering your own small press background) that you would expect retailers to take the considerable financial risk of even attempting to carry everything that came out. Few stores could afford to do this, and if they did, they probably wouldn’t be in business for long. What books they choose to carry is a decision a retailer makes every day. Choosing not to order stuff that is unlikely to sell well (like, arguably, Before Watchmen) is just a sensible business decision. Maybe I’m just misunderstanding what you are getting at?

    There are more comics out there than ever fighting for shelf space. Why should retailers promote whatever travesty DC chooses to jam down their throat when there are so many wonderful comics out there they could sell that don’t require ignoring their consciences?

  95. goggles says:

    I only bring it up because a friend of mine dropped all his DC books solely because of BW. I found it odd, but more and more I am understanding the rationale.

    It’s also entirely possible that he comes back to DC when the ones he feels responsible are gone….but there still may very well be execs that are still there pulling the exact same strings just without DiDio/Lee, etc on the ends of those strings.

    I kind of admire my buddy’s long view of this thing.

  96. MBunge says:

    Retailers are free to carry anything they want. Rejecting Before Watchmen while continuing to sell Superman comics seems more an exercise in moral vanity than anything else.

    Mike

  97. I just love how all the DC concern trolls believe that the retailers should bear the sole burden of risk and responsibility for the publisher’s obvious and short-sighted cash grab.

  98. I was kind of slightly looking forward to flicking through those comics on the shelf then putting them back, tutting to myself about the shame that it is . How such tremendous creators as these had to stoop to this kind of pandering to make a buck.

  99. Steven–
    I don’t think it’s hard to follow what I’m concerned about. Being a New Yorker who has blind access to a lot of what comix has to offer, I foolishly admit that it never really occurred to me that I had to be AS aware as my local comix shops of what is made available now that I’m being advised that I have to make impulse buys way in advance. Which means, not only am I being advised to buy a Diamond Distributors catalog and create a personal purchase order for my local comix shops, but I also have to scan the internet on a daily basis and discover what independent publishers and comix makers are offering in hopes my LCS can secure items that interest me. Bottom line: I don’t have the time for such stealthy strategizing and it kills the impulse buy. Again, it shouldn’t surprise me but it’s a bummer and it only makes me wonder what other cool comix I’m missing because I don’t have the wherewithal and fortitude to order what I might like [in print] beforehand.

    I don’t feel there is a need to expand on this desire as I continue to learn the nuts and bolts of retailing comix via this interesting dialogue.

    And, for the record, I have no strong stance on BEFORE WATCHMEN until I can actually hold copies of the actual comics in my hands and decide, at that moment, if I wish to purchase any of those comix. I am not a fan of what happened to Jack Kirby and other creators but I continue to buy their creations in iteration and even, once in a blue moon, write and draw some of their creations, and I will see the new AVENGERS movie, despite grumblings. It does bother me greatly that life in comix is criminally unfair [I recently signed a contract against my better judgment so that I can eat while making comix] and I struggle [daily] with some of my silly fanboy decisions which is not anything I feel necessary to fully disclose here on THE BEAT. Dub me consumer conflicted.

  100. The Comic Guru says:

    I think we have had enough comments on this panel. How about some others ?

    The MOCCA event was fabulous – the best ever. Kudos to everyone.

  101. LeftofObama says:

    brian,i think you well be surprised with the numbers,from what i am hearing and i admit second handily.
    The numbers will be approaching AVX and with expected re-orders will be matching them.
    I know one local retailer who has 2 different speculators buying 100 of each 1st issue to send into CGC.
    Now i do not support the whole CGC thing,comics should be read,etc

    Dean Haspiel and Legitsquare , good posts!

    But if this is happening with a couple of speculators i am sure there are others

  102. Synsidar says:

    Rejecting Before Watchmen while continuing to sell Superman comics seems more an exercise in moral vanity than anything else.

    The thing is, creators who are doing the BEFORE WATCHMEN prequels could have chosen to do stories using similar characters and similar themes, and achieved similar results, without raising the issues that BEFORE WATCHMEN does. The underlying ideas and motivations for a story determine whether the creators are treating the story as an artistic effort, or as jobs to do.

    AvX is an example of an aesthetic void, with no apparent reason for the storyline’s existence except that Marvel Editorial wanted the Avengers and the mutants to fight and came up with a reason, or non-reason. BEFORE WATCHMEN is similarly a void, in that nothing the creators can do will enhance a reader’s understanding of Moore’s and Gibbons’ WATCHMEN. They’re stories written without a purpose.

    At this point, I doubt that anyone sets out to write a Superman or Spider-Man story with the idea that he’s creating art. He’s doing a job, and nothing more than that.

    SRS

  103. Johnny Memeonic says:

    America has a (relatively) free market system. This means these stores can choose whether or not to carry Before Watchmen on whatever ethical or economic grounds they so desire.

    If you don’t like this level of economic freedom then there are plenty of totalitarian countires with centrally planned economies (but I repeat myself) that you can move to.

  104. Thomas Baumbidell says:

    “AvX is an example of an aesthetic void, with no apparent reason for the storyline’s existence except that Marvel Editorial wanted the Avengers and the mutants to fight and came up with a reason, or non-reason.”

    The reason is because it’s AWESOME. If the Avengers fighting the X-Men doesn’t excite you, it may be that you just don’t like superhero comics. That is a reasonable thing, but any distaste you have for the project isn’t an editorial misstep. AvX is exactly what it’s supposed to be. Superheroes punching each other.

  105. Matthew Southworth says:

    I’m amazed at the push-back against Dean’s point.

    I applaud Bergen St.’s willingness to take a stand against something they find distasteful, but I think this is a pretty self-defeating way to do it.

    Why SHOULDN’T people just buy their comics online if comic shops will pick and choose material based on a political stance? If your store owner thinks Frank Miller’s conservatism is distasteful, he might not carry Miller’s books. Or if he dislikes Ayn Rand, mightn’t he not carry anything related to Steve Ditko?

    Or perhaps he’s offended by something Toby Cypress or Kurt Busiek or I might say on here.

    It’s already being asserted by many that it’s the customer’s job to riffle through a catalog and pre-order the things he’d like to buy, and now the customer is expected to know the political stance of the comic shop owner?

    I know we haven’t gotten to that point yet, and I know Bergen St. has a solid point here, but my God, it’s getting ridiculous. When I need more Coke Zero, I go to the store and buy it. If I want to read a Jim Thompson novel, I go to the store and buy it.

    If I want to read the new issue of Batman, I have to hope that I can get down there before everyone else snatches it up since I didn’t plan ahead months ago. Well, shit, there must be somewhere online–right here on my desk–that I can get it from, possibly cheaper, and delivered to my house.

    I’d WAYYYYYY rather go to the comic store and browse and find things I didn’t already know about (like Dean’s PLANET OF THE APES example above). This is not an effective system, and it keeps getting worse.

    Isn’t there a way to solve this so comic shops become more available to the general public instead of more and more like someone’s secret clubhouse? I genuinely want to know.

  106. Synsidar says:

    If the Avengers fighting the X-Men doesn’t excite you, it may be that you just don’t like superhero comics.

    The reason for the story matters. If a writer doesn’t think that the reason matters, then he will probably take the easiest possible routes to producing a story, such as using an idiot plot, mind control, temporary insanity, or a terrible alternate future that has to be warded off. The characters fight, even though there’s no reason for them to fight. Nothing that happens in the story says anything noteworthy about the heroes.

    In hard SF, conversely, ideas are the basis for the story. In the recent Niven-Lerner “Known Space” novels, for example, they’ve been coming up with previously unknown ways to destroy the practically indestructible General Products (GP) spaceship hull. In Betrayer of Worlds, they came up with the idea of having a ship carried within a GP hull enter hyperspace. The dimensional shift produced by the hyperspace drive cuts through the hull. Logical, once you think about it, but not easy to come up with. The GP element is an intellectual game that’s fun to play with the writers.

    An idea doesn’t make a story, but a story without an idea is nothing.

    SRS

  107. joe.distort says:

    the weird arguments in here confuse me.

    why would any retailer care what another carries unless the concept of this is somehow threatening to them? and even then, if they are so concerned, wouldnt they be HAPPY that they may have a product their competitors dont…unless they secretly realize that this IS a risk, and people may not want this?

    also, the record store i go to doesnt carry LMFAO, Katy Perry or Red Hot Chili Peppers records.this is the same exact concept- you CAN support what you like and you SHOULDNT support things you dont want to waste your own time with

  108. You know who else has a problem with in store price checking? Best Buy. Why? Because they offer nothing to the customer besides business hours and widgets on shelves.

    If you’re comic shop is having similar problems, then one has to ask if you’re doing much more for the customer experience than just having business hours and widgets for sale.

  109. Matthew Southworth says:

    Ha! The irony of a store called Best Buy that sells cellphones not allowing a customer to use his cellphone to search for the best buy…

  110. Mr. Haspiel: The May Diamond catalog has 2,233 line items. That’s down considerably from the past; I checked a random 2006 order, and there were a bit over 4,000 items available that month. EVERY shop “curates” their order to some degree, for a variety of reasons… aesthetic, financial, ethical, grudge-based, etc. I didn’t order those PLANET OF THE APES comics partly because because of a lack of apparent customer interest, and partly because of my policy of prioritizing original work over licensed comics. If I’m likely not to sell more than one or two copies of something (and if I order two and sell one, I’m well below breaking even on that title!), I’m more likely to take the risk on, say, INJURY or POPE HATS (both of which actually turned out to be pretty good sellers). In years past, I favored KEYHOLE over whatever tie-in books were offered that month, so this benefitted you personally. Diamond actually later mis-shipped us a copy of an issue of POTA, and I agree that it’s much better-looking than previous efforts, but showing that to customers still generated no interest.

  111. @Dean Haspiel

    Thanks for clarifying, Dean. I don’t think anyone can keep up with all of the stuff that is being published at this point… that has always been the case, but especially now that it seems highly unlikely that the lone major comics distributor carries the majority of comics that get published. To me, this seems like a good argument for retailers to focus on carrying the comics they like and think will sell, rather than just blindly carrying whatever the mainstream publishers foist upon them as the next big thing.

  112. Thanks, Matthew, for having my back!

    Devlin & Steven–
    Thanks for your responses. This thread has been an eye-opening education for me and confirmation that a retailer’s job is hella tough in today’s market. I’ve come to understand that most impulse purchases have gone the way of the dinosaur but I sure will miss that latitude. Better to KNOW your LCS!

  113. @Matthew Southward -“I’d WAYYYYYY rather go to the comic store and browse and find things I didn’t already know about (like Dean’s PLANET OF THE APES example above). This is not an effective system, and it keeps getting worse.”

    The thing is Comic Shops are the ones who are buying the comics, and reselling them to customers. They can’t choose to have EVERYTHING in a Diamond catalogue available, they have to use their judgement.
    Comic stores have stressed that you should create a pull list to ensure you find what you like by “browsing” the Diamond catalogue. Yeah, you can browse the store and hope the owner has the good taste to stock something you might find interesting, but you are taking a chance of always missing something. An impulse buy is subject to the Owner’s taste, consumer demand, and judgement as it’s always been. If you are worried about missing something you need to order from Diamond’s cat. Or shop online.

    Comic Shops are becoming more of an interactive gallery these days. I do most of my purchasing online, and enjoy a browse thru a comic shop for exploratory, and discovery. So, it’s becoming more important than ever that comic shops experiment with a unique taste for properties to exhibit for anxious customers. An experience you can’t find online.

    I think it’s refreshing to see shelf space reserved for something else rather than an over-hyped project like Watchmen that will be over stocked at most retailers.

  114. MBunge says:

    “without raising the issues that BEFORE WATCHMEN does”

    But not everyone agrees that BEFORE WATCHMEN raises any issues.

    Mike

  115. …continued

    Comic Shops pay out of pocket for every comic displayed, so they own that merchandise in that store. It’s not like you just pick a title out of a catalogue, it arrives, and the store shares the purchase with DC/Marvel.

    You buying a comic at a comic shop supports the shop, not DC/Marvel.

    The most important customer to COMIC CREATORS is the comic shop ordering manager because He/She is the one who is actually buying your comic, not your fan.

    Before Watchmen can be bought anywhere/everywhere. RODD RACER, or BLUE ESTATE can’t. I think it’s a good idea for a store to stock unique titles people need to SEE to BUY. This way they are not competing with online browsing, but with one store’s taste over another.

  116. Mbunge: “But not everyone agrees that BEFORE WATCHMEN raises any issues.”

    Was that an attempt at humor, two 300+ comment threads later?

    Because if it wasn’t it’s like saying not everyone agrees that the sun comes up every morning.

  117. “brian,i think you well be surprised with the numbers,from what i am hearing and i admit second handily. The numbers will be approaching AVX and with expected re-orders will be matching them.”

    I think it’s highly unlikely that any BW book will surpass (on the first issue only) 100-110k. AvX is past 200k. Most of the BW books really look like 50-60k books by their 4th issues — note that would be Top 20 these days!

    @Dean

    “I’ve come to understand that most impulse purchases have gone the way of the dinosaur but I sure will miss that latitude. ”

    I think you’ve come to entirely wrong understanding? Like Devlin noted there are 2000+ items each month… that’s 500+ items each and every week, for 52 weeks a year.

    How many of those, in even your wildest crazy purchasing dream could one person even buy week-in and week-out? Probably not even 10%? Less?

    Think about just how much rack space all of that material would absorb, if displayed even barely adequately?

    There’s far more material being published (some of it for extraordinarily niche audiences) than can possibly be properly supported (whether or not it’s in print) every week, without fail.

    But that doesn’t mean “impulse buys” are gone — you still have more choice than you could every want in most stores. And if they don’t stock the thing you’re looking for they’re probably fairly happy to order it for you.

    -B

  118. Right on, Brian!

  119. Al — in that example the store isn’t censoring or blocking your access to anything. You have half a dozen other options for discovering and/or purchasing whatever they don’t carry. Any good store would look at their space as a curated selection, a healthy mix of “we think you’ll like this” and “I think you should try this.” My local indie bookstore doesn’t stock any superheroes at all in their graphic novel section. Are they “blocking my access” to Spider-Man? It’s just a ridiculous assertion.

    Bergen St. made a principled choice in a highly competitive region; they have two comic stores within walking distance (three, if you count the B&N newsstand), plus at least 6 others within 20 minute subway reach. They know that customers who may come in looking for the books will go elsewhere. Kudos to Tom and Amy for making such a surprising and welcome stand on principles. I’m proud that Bergen St. is my LCS.

  120. @RobertFrost: “Of course a comic book shop isn’t obligated to stock EVERY comic book any company ever publishes – they are supposed to stock every comic book that they feel they can make a profit off of.”

    No, they’re not obligated to do that, either.

    “any comic book shop owner that decides not to stock a book because of their personal politics, when they know full well their customers want that book, would lose my business to another comic book shop.”

    Absolutely. That’s what makes Bergen St.’s decision meaningful and noteworthy. If they chose not to carry a book with no sales potential at all, it wouldn’t be much of a statement.

  121. Sign of the times says:

    So many posts and it has been barely touched on…comic book retailers BUY their product. They are not obligated to stock ANYTHING. Get used to it.

    I wouldn’t shop somewhere that prevented me from buying something because of the store owner’s personal politics. That’s NOT what is happening here. If you want it, they’ll get it for you, but they are not going to risk their money on something they find abhorrent. They are not stopping you from buying Before Watchmen at their store, but you have to commit to buying it in order to do so. I see nothing wrong with this position. Kudos to these store owners, and good luck to those morons buying 100 to send to CGC.

    Matt, you want a solution? Full returnability.

    Not supporting Before Watchmen while still supporting Marvel and DC is not hypocrisy. It just isn’t. You have the right to be misinformed, but that doesn’t make your conclusions true.

    Banning cell phones? Screw you. As a consumer, I have every right to find a better deal using any method at my disposal. Get used to it. Any place that tries to stop you from using your phone to price check should be seen as trying to rip you off and isn’t worthy of your respect by ceasing to use it.

  122. MBunge says:

    “Because if it wasn’t it’s like saying not everyone agrees that the sun comes up every morning.”

    No, because some like to assume that the “issues” raised by BEFORE WATCHMEN are a given and that all that’s left is having the “correct” view of those issues.

    This isn’t an argument over the sun rising. It’s more like an argument over whether or not Alan Moore is the sun.

    Mike

  123. MBunge: You wrote “But not everyone agrees that BEFORE WATCHMEN raises any issues.”

    Which is patently false. People already have issues with it. These issues exist whether they are “right” or “wrong.” The vocal nature of the argument over these issues suggests that they could be “legitimate” issues and not bogus cable news talking points.

    You can perfectly well disagree with those who are having problems, but you cannot deny the fact that those problems exist.

  124. LeftofObama says:

    joe.

    “also, the record store i go to doesnt carry LMFAO, Katy Perry or Red Hot Chili Peppers records.this is the same exact concept- you CAN support what you like and you SHOULDNT support things you dont want to waste your own time with”

    you are proving my point , i agree with you , it is extremely doubtful that any comic shop can not sell one racked copy of BW. it is not like my local “Metal CD shop” not selling the Beatles , they do not carry the Beatles because they would never sell a copy of a Beatles cd.

    Like it or not , BW will sell, and i am sorry to disappoint the naysayers , i pretty much guarantee that they will sell.
    The problem on this board is that people have no grasp on what really sells in comic book shops and keeps the stores doors open.

  125. MBunge says:

    “Which is patently false. People already have issues with it.”

    Uh, if you’ve ever taken a glance at the world of politics you’ll see that people claim to have “issues” with just about everything under the sun. An awful lot of those alleged “issues” are complete nonsense.

    I think BEFORE WATCHMEN is a pathetic cash grab. A sequel might be justifiable creatively, but a prequel? Multiple prequels? Cash grab.

    Will any of BEFORE WATCHMEN be a work of genius that even comes close to the original? Almost certainly not, but some of them might be pretty good in their own right. In fact, the only real excuse possible for the project other than cash grab is that is might entice WATCHMEN fans to become interested in the work of these other creators. Not likely, but possible.

    But while there is a very, very, very, very, very strong aesthetic argument to be made against BEFORE WATCHMEN, is there anything ethically, morally or legally wrong with it, DC for publishing it or these creators for participating in such a cash grab? No, and all of Alan Moore’s complaints to the contrary don’t change that.

    People are 100% entitled to loathe this project. They’re entitled to shun it, shun DC and shun the creators involved. But this is nothing more than a matter of personal preference with no real larger “issue” at stake…other than, perhaps, be careful when you sign a contract.

    Mike

  126. jonboy says:

    ——–
    Is Before Watchmen a “CASH GRAB”?

    Hells yeah. But so was Civil War, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Blackest Night, Avengers vs X-Men, DCU52, the Ultimate universe, and every comic cross-over event since All Star Comics #3.

    So what. Buy it or don’t. Loathe it or love it. But moral indignation at a company trying to (gods forbid) make a profit? That’s silly.
    ——–

    Banning smart phones at a store? Makes sense, as I’ve heard people say “I’ll get that on Amazon”… That would piss me off too. Personally, I try to buy my books at my LCS first, and only fall back to online stores for a rare purchase.

    BUT, I also keep my want list on my phone, or I’ll check my phone to see if TPB series has 9 volumes or 10. Or I’ll check to see what else came out when.
    ——–

    I find it amusing that Bergen isn’t selling Before Watchmen but they’ll sell Avengers.

    Ah. Morality. Such a fickle temptress.

  127. “The problem on this board is that people have no grasp on what really sells in comic book shops and keeps the stores doors open.”

    This statement is laughable. There are several smart retailers here who know their stores and their clientele. I’d love to see someone explain to Brian Hibbs that he has no idea what sells in his store.

    “But this is nothing more than a matter of personal preference with no real larger ‘issue’ at stake…other than, perhaps, be careful when you sign a contract.”

    Even if the relevant contract is the only issue here, and I don’t agree that it is, unfair contracts and bad business practices are important issues in the comics industry. Those issues are front and center in the debate about BEFORE WATCHMEN.

  128. LeftofObama says:

    obviously,i was not referring to Hibbs,who has has one of the best run comic book stores,i have ever seen.

    i am referring to the number of posters who seem to live in a world were a comic book store can thrive without carrying major DC (or Marvel) releases. Though a few may exist, they are few and far between. Face it true-belivers without DC and Marvel most comic stores would be out of biz

  129. Will Naslund says:

    @Dustin

    “Will, I’m not saying no one should make comics with existing characters, but Watchmen? It’s like doing “The Early Adventures Of Jay Gatsby”–it’s not necessary because Watchmen is a closed circuit, a finite, wholly contained story.”

    Somebody, somewhere has probably written “The Young Jay Gatsby Adventures” — and there’s almost an entire subgenre of literature devoted to prequels and sequels to (and side-stories from) the works of Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and others. The aesthetic value of that material is arguable, but it’s existence clearly doesn’t harm the original work and isn’t immoral/unethical in an obvious way.

    “Another way to come at it–Watchmen was a piece of art, whether or not you like the art, or whatever its flaws might have been. It grappled with issues both in and out of its pages, both contextual and subtextual. Before Watchmen is just money–it’s just a book of coupons. There’s no reason for it to be there, except for fan service and DC’s bottom line.”

    I’m just not comfortable making distinctions between ‘art’ and ‘not-art’ based on subjective notions of merit. It’s all pop art created in a commercial environment to me — and it’s not as if Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner, Brian Azzarello, etc. are hacks. I expect their BW stuff will have plenty ‘contextual and subtextual goodies’ as well.

    See, this is one of the issues with the anti-BW argument that rankles me. ONLY Moore and his work is valued. The skill of Cooke, Conner, and the other BW creators is summarily dismissed (and their motives are disparaged) — as is that of Gibbons, David Lloyd, and Moore’s other collaborators. It’s always all about Moore.

    “I don’t blame anyone who’s excited about Before Watchmen. I don’t think it’s bad at all to want to read it or buy it or whatever. I do find the whole project reprehensible, cloddish, and backwards, but there are a lot of comics I don’t like. That’s just my opinion, for what that’s worth. But I think when people like Chris Roberson and shops like Bergen Street make a stand on issues they find unbearably problematic, I think it’s worth something.”

    And while I respect the good faith and civility with which you (and others like Roberson) have argued against BW, I still find it interesting that the BW books are where so many people have chosen to draw their proverbial line in the sand. The other controversies you mention (Siegel and Shuster, Kirby) are much more clear cut cases of exploitation. If Roberson hadn’t mentioned Moore at all, and cited his dismay with DC/Warner Bros’ treatment of Siegel and Shuster, I would find his stance to have a little more clarity and merit overall.

    “We tend to view these issues as if we all had law degrees– “now now, hold on, we all know he signed that contract, too bad dumdum”, but that’s frankly gross reasoning.”

    Agreed, with the caveat that I think the likes of Siegel, Shuster, and Kirby are a bit more deserving of our sympathy than Moore based on the context of the times in which they made their respective deals. S & S signed away Superman for a pittance in an era in which better deals were neither widely known or available. Kirby relinquished his rights in response to Marvel holding a big chunk of his original art hostage.

    Moore made his deal in an environment in which Kirby’s and S & S’s travails were cautionary tales heard throughout the corridors of the industry. Saying he should have known better is probably a little cheap, granted, but it’s arguable all the same — in a way it’s clearly not with Kirby and Siegel/Shuster.

    Also, Kirby, Siegel, and Shuster were titans of the industry who were well regarded by nearly all of their peers and denigrated very few of them (with the partial exception of Stan Lee in Kirby’s case, but given the nature of their dispute that was more or less inevitable) publicly.

    Moore, on the other hand, pissed all over a number of his former collaborators (Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd, others) heaped vitriol on several other respected pros (Len Wein, others), and recently made some sweepingly scornful statements about comic writers as a whole that were both ignorant and unwarranted.

    I wouldn’t dream of arguing that Moore isn’t an incredibly talented writer (he clearly is) — but I would strongly argue that he’s a crank, a curmudgeon, a pain to work with (or at least to *have* worked with, particularly when it comes to making decisions about licensing, reprinting, etc. work me created *with someone else who damn well ought to have an equal voice in what’s done with said work*), and given to making sweeping snap judgments about an industry (and the creative people in it) that he’ll admit to being proudly ignorant of in the same breath.

    In other words, he’s basically a jerk — and I just can’t muster up a lot of sympathy for jerks, especially jerks who signed a legally valid contract (in the context of a modern, reasonably informed industry) that was at least slightly above par relative to the deals most creatives were being offered at that time (i.e. he may not like Before Watchmen, but he’ll still wind up making significant money off it).

    Moore does have a point about DC/WB adhering to the letter, and not the spirit, of the deal they made — but it irks me a bit that that and the quality of his work is enough for most of his devotees to back his position and accept his version of events 1000% while simultaneously dismissing his history of shitty behavior and outright ignoring the fact that Dave Gibbons, whose contribution to Watchmen was as a least as important and likely *fa* more labor-intensive* than Moore’s has given the BW books his blessing.

    Regard for Moore’s creative talents is entirely appropriate, but a lot of the criticism of the BW project (not yours, but much of what I’ve seen here and elsewhere) seems to stem from an unquestioning fanboy worship that’s tantamount to Moore’s devotion to that Roman snake god he’s so fond of.

  130. “i am referring to the number of posters who seem to live in a world were a comic book store can thrive without carrying major DC (or Marvel) releases. Though a few may exist, they are few and far between. ”

    Well, I think we’re fairly certain there are ones in Brooklyn, Atlanta, and San Francisco, at least!

    (Sure, that’s “few” and “far between”)

    “Like it or not , BW will sell, and i am sorry to disappoint the naysayers , i pretty much guarantee that they will sell.”

    Well, I’m certain that every retailer in America who is buying non-returnable goods are certainly happy that an anonymous poster “pretty much” guarantees that. That will sure help us all pay our bills, boy howdy!

    BW might do fairly well, but *I* certainly don’t think it’s a major-league automatic homerun, though — and I don’t really think it’s worth selling off the Crown Jewels for anything other than a grand-slam of a win.

    *shrug*

    -B

  131. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Will Naslund–so are you saying that because Alan Moore is a jerk that it’s okay to rip him off? Would you have the same perception were we talking about Stan Sakai or Mike Allred or Jack Kirby?

    Just asking. Some of what you say I agree with, other parts not, but I’d argue that a creator’s personality is not what’s at issue here but what his rights are.

    And for the record, I’m not dismissing the potential quality of the books at all. I will flip through them–Darwyn Cooke is a big time major favorite of mine, and I’ll likely buy his book, though I’ll have a bit of a stomach-ache when I do. But the quality of the books is not at issue here, in my opinion.

  132. Ed Brubaker says:

    Naslund – I think people may be drawing a line in the sand because this one, while you may not see it as being as bad as Kirby or Siegel and Shuster, is happening in our lifetimes, right in front of us.

    Also, you never saw Kirby saying he wanted Marvel not to publish the Avengers or the Fantastic Four.

    I feel like DC lied to the entire industry when they said Watchmen was going to be different, that it was a leap forward for creators rights, so the whole project irks me. I don’t fault my peers for working on it, though, because I like them, and I know how hard it is to earn a good living in this field.

  133. @Will Naslund- “See, this is one of the issues with the anti-BW argument that rankles me. ONLY Moore and his work is valued.”

    This is what rankles me- Darwyn Cooke is now wedging himself as a creator of Watchmen. He doesn’t mean to, and claims he’s only basing his work on what Moore has already created…however Darwyn Cooke is now a co-author of Watchmen by writing creative backstory. Darwyn Cooke has no creative entitlement in concern of Watchmen’s steward.

    The thing about D.Cooke is that he is very good at organizing redundancies, and convoluted storyline into simple, lean, trim character symbols. He’s taken Batman, and examined his ID at it’s most fundamental. He’s re-designed Catwoman, and simplified the JLA as the iconic symbols they are without all the clumsy baggage.

    Thing is…
    Moore ALREADY DID THAT with Watchmen by giving his readers everything they needed to know about the characters, and stripping away all clumsy backstory that only burdens the immediate story at hand. Watchmen was the most important story of these character’s lives at the 11th hour of doomsday. That’s the story.

    Darwyn Cooke is now doing exactly OPPOSITE of what he’s done his entire career. Adding extra backstory, and complicating everything Moore has built with dead/useless weight.

    The prequel has no relevance because we already know that whatever risk, danger, choices, or drama these characters will face in Before Watchmen…they have survived, and resolved their decisions by time Moore’s Watchmen is introduced. Therefore Before Watchmen has nothing at risk, and is pointless material created by Darwyn Cooke, and Dan DiDio.

    That said, suddenly Darwyn Cooke is now considered a co-author of Watchmen because he’s adding useless material to the property. Just like every other property at DC, Watchmen is now pointless, with every freelancer potentially credited as Watchman’s steward.

    Watchmen is different to Siegel, Kirby etc for many reasons.
    However, one important example…
    Siegel, Shuster, Kirby created character PROPERTIES for DC/Marvel.
    Moore created a STORY.
    He did not create a new property, his contract concerns his story.
    There is an important difference when it concerns watchmen because Moore’s rights to his story are being denied to him.

    consider…
    We freelance artists get to keep our original art as it’s been understood for many decades now. Moore signed a contract that effectively gives him return of his original art. For a writer, publishing rights are creative property to shape a destiny with.

    the creators at Before Watchmen don’t understand that they have just signed on to deny a fellow creator his work.

  134. Will Naslund says:

    @Matthew Southworth

    “@Will Naslund–so are you saying that because Alan Moore is a jerk that it’s okay to rip him off? Would you have the same perception were we talking about Stan Sakai or Mike Allred or Jack Kirby?

    Just asking.”

    Well, thanks for asking (seriously, I’m not being snarky here) — instead of uncharitably assuming that *was* what I was saying.

    And the answer’s ‘no’. In the part of my post you’re referring to, I was responding to the bit of Dustin’s post upthread where he led with, “We tend to view these issues as if we all had law degrees– “now now, hold on, we all know he signed that contract, too bad dumdum”, but that’s frankly gross reasoning.”

    Which I agreed with to an extent — but went on to say that if one was to take all the specific legal/ethical issues out of the equation, and it simply became an issue of ‘do you like this artist and want them to get what they deserve?’ in the abstract, then my answer to that iteration of the question would be ‘based on his behavior, I don’t like this particular artist much and I don’t care if the situation is resolved to his satisfaction’.

    But with the added context of the legal/ethical issues at play I do think Moore has a valid argument that while DC/WB has abided by the letter of their agreement with him, they have behaved in a manner that is *arguably* contrary to the spirit of their agreement.

    So yeah, I’d say Moore has cause to be annoyed with DC, but not to the extent that it vindicates his sweeping condemnation of comic writers in general or justifies his hostility toward Dave Gibbons — and I’d further argue that the offenses perpetrated against him pale against those visited upon Siegel & Shuster, Kirby, Tony Isabella, and Marv Wolfman to name just a few.

    (BTW, I’ve been hugely impressed with your work on Stumptown and Spider-Girl — and I’m very much looking forward to Dex’s next case!)

    @Ed Brubaker

    All your points are honorable and valid (particularly the one about Kirby not wanting FF and The Avengers to cease publication), which is one of the reasons I didn’t engage with any of them upthread — there’s not really all that much daylight between my views and yours (not from where I’m standing, anyway).

    But there’s one part of your reply that I would like to engage briefly:

    “I feel like DC lied to the entire industry when they said Watchmen was going to be different, that it was a leap forward for creators rights, so the whole project irks me.”

    I can just barely remember some of the pre-release hype that surrounded Watchmen back in the day (I have vague recollections of some reading ‘Meanwhile…’ columns and things of that nature as a young ‘un) — and I do recall DC positioning themselves as a creator-friendly alternative to late Jim Shooter-era Marvel, so I think I’m with you as far as that goes…but…but(and this may be splitting hairs)…wasn’t that still kind of true given the existing standards/deals of the time?

    Granted DC has prevented Moore from regaining ownership of Watchmen by keeping it in print — but wasn’t the fact that his deal had a rights reversion clause *of any kind* at least a slight leap forward? It seems to me as if the deals made for Watchmen, Ronin, Camelot 3000, etc. offered their creators more control, remuneration, and recognition than what was available elsewhere at the time, and IIRC, Dick Giordano was generally regarded as a more creator-friendly EIC as well.

    I’m certainly not pretending to have any special knowledge or access, but given that Giordano (as well as Jeanette Kahn) had fairly solid reputations, is it that much of a stretch to believe that they were acting in good faith when they negotiated the deal with Moore and Gibbons? My guess is that while they certainly expected Watchmen to be a success (why bankroll it otherwise?), they couldn’t have anticipated that it would become such a runaway success that keeping it perpetually in print would make good economic sense. The more likely scenario is that Kahn, Giordano, and the other principals probably thought that the rights would revert to Moore and Gibbons at some point.

    And if they thought that, then they were speaking in good faith when they were claiming to move the ball forward w/r/t creator’s rights.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel irked (my beef is with the more vitriolic critics of BW that are calling for boycotts and/or slagging off the creative talent attached to them), but isn’t that scenario just as plausible as some of the more cynical ones that have been advanced in this discussion? And if it is, doesn’t it make the notion that Moore was ‘screwed’ by DC/WB a little more murkier? If they thought they were giving him generous terms at the time, and he thought so too, and the terms were measurably better than what he would’ve likely gotten elsewhere (at least from a publisher who was willing to pay Moore and Gibbons to do the book instead as opposed to simply publishing it after they’d completed it on their own), then maybe it actually *was* a good deal given those circumstances — and the decision to keep Watchmen by having it stay in print indefinitely came later, and was made by somebody else.

    If that’s possible, then it’s possible that DC wasn’t lying to you, or to the creative community at large, when they said what they did back then.

    (BTW, I’m a huge fan of all your work — but especially your creator-owned stuff. Fatale has been a phenomenal read so far!)

    @Toby Cypress

    “This is what rankles me- Darwyn Cooke is now wedging himself as a creator of Watchmen. He doesn’t mean to, and claims he’s only basing his work on what Moore has already created…however Darwyn Cooke is now a co-author of Watchmen by writing creative backstory. Darwyn Cooke has no creative entitlement in concern of Watchmen’s steward.”

    Darwyn Cooke is (and will be) no more the ‘creator’ of Watchmen than Frank Miller was the creator of Batman or Daredevil. That didn’t stop B:LOTDK from being an awesome Batman story, ‘Born Again’ from being an awesome Daredevil story — and it won’t preclude Minutemen from being a great story with the Watchmen characters either.

    “The prequel has no relevance because we already know that whatever risk, danger, choices, or drama these characters will face in Before Watchmen…they have survived, and resolved their decisions by time Moore’s Watchmen is introduced. Therefore Before Watchmen has nothing at risk, and is pointless material created by Darwyn Cooke, and Dan DiDio.”

    If I rephrase this bit thusly…

    ‘The Silmarillion has no relevance because we already know that Sauron will survive and become the per-eminent threat to Middle Earth by the time The Lord of The Rings trilogy begins, therefore the Silmarillion is pointless junk and Tolkien shouldn’t have written it.’

    …will it show you how silly this portion of your argument is?

    I can understand and respect the argument that Watchmen is complete in and of itself and needs no prequels, sequels, etc. What I can’t understand is why the folks making that argument think that their assessment of the BW books is the only one that matters.

    If you only want to read Watchmen, then *just read Watchmen* — nobody from DC is going to take your copy of Absolute Watchmen and forcibly shove the BW material into it, I promise.

    And if the detractors are ultimately proved right, and the BW books are judged a critical and/or commercial failure…guess what? That won’t damage the original work either!

    On the other hand, it seems like there are a sizable number of folks who are interested in seeing more of this world and these characters, where’s the harm in having some A-List creators satisfy that interest? It’s not likely to damage the core, original work then the many, many unauthorized prequels and sequels to ‘Pride and Prejudice’ or ‘Wuthering Heights’ have damaged the integrity of those works.

    “…suddenly Darwyn Cooke is now considered a co-author of Watchmen because he’s adding useless material to the property.”

    The only person that considers Darwyn Cooke to be a co-creator in this thread is you. John Gardner wrote some good James Bond novels after Ian Fleming died, but nobody in their right mind would call him 007’s ‘co-creator’.

    “Siegel, Shuster, Kirby created character PROPERTIES for DC/Marvel. Moore created a STORY.”

    A story with CHARACTERS in it. This is a distinction without a difference.

    “Moore signed a contract that effectively gives him return of his original art.”

    This strikes me as a highly flawed analogy. Moore’s ‘story’ is in no way equivalent to Gibbons’ original art. Moore can click ‘print’ on whatever PC he uses nowadays and produce something that is functionally equivalent to the script he initially gave Gibbons and DC, where as copies of Gibbons’ line art would be nowhere near as valuable as the original pages are. The writer and artist are equally important jobs in the creation of a work, but they’re markedly different jobs in a number of ways.

    “For a writer, publishing rights are creative property to shape a destiny with.”

    No, ‘For a *creative team*, publishing rights are creative property to shape a destiny with.’

    Gibbons should have an equal say w/r/t the Watchmen property, and he’s OK with the BW initiative — I really wish you (and many of the other participants in this discussion) would give his preferences equal consideration.

  135. Matthew Southworth says:

    Thanks for the reasonable, considered response, Will. We might be on somewhat different sides of the discussion, but I really appreciate your level head and willingness to debate.

    And of course, thank you for the kind words!

  136. Jimmy Palmiotti says:

    I look forward to the orders of Creator Owned Heroes #1 coming out the same month as these books from Image. We think we created something fun , full of comics and articles and each creator owns a piece of the title.

    What I do know is each retailer can do as they please, order what they like or refuse what they don’t like and so on because it is their business that they own, and their choice. A consumer can also choose where they want to shop or not shop based on how they are treated.

    Simple facts. Bergen is choosing to pre-order only and is making it clear to its customers in advance. A walk in will not find the books if they are looking for them and try another shop till they find them. I respect their choice, as I respect the right to the customer to go elsewhere.

    I understand exactly what Dean is saying , but it seems to me he might have to shop elsewhere to flip through these books.

  137. Synsidar says:

    “Siegel, Shuster, Kirby created character PROPERTIES for DC/Marvel. Moore created a STORY.”

    A story with CHARACTERS in it. This is a distinction without a difference.

    No, there are differences.

    Suppose that you obtain the rights to use Spider-Man in a story or two. What do you do with him? Have him fight someone from his rogues gallery? Have him fight a new villain? Decide to be “different” and write a story in which he’s Peter Parker, goes out on a date, and doesn’t use his powers? Decide to use him to promote your sociopolitical interests and have him condemn anti-abortion zealots and speak at the funeral of a murdered doctor? Or do you decide Spider-Man isn’t of much use to you, but the rights are, and hire somebody else to write and market your Spider-Man stories?

    In deciding to have prequels written about the individual heroes in WATCHMEN, DC has reduced them to the status of the corporate heroes, whose trademarked names and copyrighted images are more valuable than the characters themselves. If a writer doesn’t have anything to say in a story, then it doesn’t matter what character he uses; the story won’t have any more weight. The only differences his choice makes are in the marketing of the story, and whether readers feel cheated.

    If a writer does have something interesting to say in a story, then it’s intellectually consistent to respect Moore’s views re WATCHMEN and to choose not to use his characters. Doing so enhances his reputation as a creator.

    SRS

  138. Wow, thanks for the tip, Jimmy! I didn’t know about Creator Owned Heroes and I’m looking forward to reading it.

  139. Will Naslund-

    “If I rephrase this bit thusly…

    ‘The Silmarillion has no relevance because we already know that Sauron will survive and become the per-eminent threat to Middle Earth by the time The Lord of The Rings trilogy begins, therefore the Silmarillion is pointless junk and Tolkien shouldn’t have written it.’”

    I think you are reaching on that.
    Silmarillion is a glossary of sorts, a history, an encyclopedia of Middle Earth the whole point is to relate history.

    Silmarillion was written before Lord of the Rings, and scrapped, then re-introduced after LoR.
    The last 20 pages of Silmarillion is the prologue to LoR, bridging the two.

    Silmarillion isn’t presented to us as story per se, but as bonus material, and yes it isn’t relevent to LoR.

    I think a better example-
    Lord of the Rings is Frodo’s greatest moment, his own story.
    The Hobbit is Bilbo’s story.
    In this example we see how sequel/prequel work best. New characters with their own stories.

    Before Watchmen stars the same characters we already witnessed. This is an ineffectual use of prequels.

    Prometheous is said to be a prequel of Alien, but it’s relevant because it’s characters have a story to tell about the time they discovered something strange on a weird planet, and…well we don’t know if they lived, or died because their story hasn’t been told! You see my point?

    “Darwyn Cooke is (and will be) no more the ‘creator’ of Watchmen than Frank Miller was the creator of Batman or Daredevil.”

    You’re right about that. However his is now a Co-author. All the properties of DC are Co-authored by hundreds of creators now by adding their own logic to characters such as Superman, Batman. Watchmen is no different now, and that’s significant. Watchmen is now an intellectual property for exploitation by a freelancer with a bright idea.

    “A story with CHARACTERS in it. This is a distinction without a difference.”

    Semantics.
    Kirby, Siegel etc had a different agreement than Moore. Create characters, selling those characters to DC/Marvel.

    Moore signed a contract for a paperback story. At least that’s what he was thinking.

    The difference is that he never sold the rights of these characters to DC/MARVEL he sold the publishing rights. So DC has stewardship until the book goes out of print. They found loopholes to keep his work, and property.

  140. For what it’s worth: I didn’t know that my LCS was only pre-ordering BW for individual customers until I read this article on THE BEAT.

  141. I hope Creator Owned Heroes is successful.
    Before Watchmen illustrates why we don’t have a fair industry for creators. Making it tough for creator owned to be embraced by industry, fans, and the creators themselves.

  142. MBunge says:

    “So DC has stewardship until the book goes out of print. They found loopholes to keep his work, and property.”

    That is a willfully deceitful characterization. DC is not doing anything that any other publisher of any sort wouldn’t do. They can still make money by keeping WATCHMEN in print so that’s what they’ve done. No one at DC thought they’d still be publishing it in 2012. Alan Moore didn’t think they’d still be publishing it in 2012. But they are and it’s not because they’re trying to screw Alan Moore. They’re taking advantage of what turned out to be a really great business deal and there’s no company in the world that would do any different.

    Mike

  143. “…not because they’re trying to screw Alan Moore”

    Keeping the book in print isn’t screwing Alan Moore, it’s what they are doing WHILE the book stays in print.

  144. Sign of the times says:

    “But they are and it’s not because they’re trying to screw Alan Moore. They’re taking advantage of what turned out to be a really great business deal and there’s no company in the world that would do any different.”

    It’s both. But it’s more that they’re screwing WITH Alan Moore by screwing him out of what he was assured would be rightfully his by now.

    I wish DC the worst of luck with this project.

  145. Cole Moore Odell says:

    I quickly got to the point on this thread where the Watchmen arguments turned into white noise and I realized that I was only scrolling through to see if LeftOfObama would put spaces around both sides of his commas, or no spaces whatsoever. He hilariously oversteered out of his skid when initially corrected by Heidi, then eventually started going back and forth. It’s entirely baffling to me. Do you really not know how this works, LoO? Are you typing with your feet?

  146. Since Before Watchmen was announced, I’ve been thinking about this, re: Watchmen still being in print. Who the hell is buying a new copies of the book at this point? I was at Half Price Books the other day and saw 5 Watchmen (2 hardcover and 3 paperback)! The Internet offers any number of ways to get your hands on a cheap used copy, even of the Absolute edition. I’m sure DC has looked at the numbers and found it worthwhile to keep the book in print, and stores have found it worthwhile to keep on the shelves but, I repeat, who are the buyers?

    @Cole
    I noticed that too; hilarious!

  147. I was in Bizarro-Wuxtry a couple of days ago. I remembered that I might not have bread at home, so I took out my phone to call my wife to ask if we needed anything from the grocery store. Suddenly, a crazed Devlin Thompson, fire in his eyes, vaulted over the counter screaming “NO CELL PHONES” and pelting me with unsold copies of Spider-Man #1 by Todd McFarlane. I was traumatized. Why are we not talking about this?

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