When PR goes bad: Tim Marchman vs DC on Before Watchmen

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201207031812 When PR goes bad: Tim Marchman vs DC on Before Watchmen
Here in the world of what is laughably called “pop culture journalism,” we’re all used to a certain breathless acceptance in talent interviews. Staying competitive means getting exclusives and getting exclusives means playing ball. Tough questions are rarely asked, and confrontation is the greatest sin of all.

So when you read Watching Watchmen: A Classic Comic’s Classless Return at the Daily Beast, you have to either wince or gasp as things spin out of control.

Having no idea how this could happen, I ended up on the phone with Len Wein, who edited Watchmen, and as a writer helped create iconic superheroes Wolverine for Marvel and Swamp Thing for DC. Wein is writing two of the new Watchmen comics, including Ozymandias, which debuts tomorrow. I wouldn’t say he was yelling at me, but he was speaking with exclamation marks, which because he seems like a nice guy, I’d ascribe at least in part to occupational hazards.

“These are not shady business dealings!” he said. I had just told him that I thought an argument he was dismissing was really about shady business dealings.

They certainly strike the outside world as incredibly shady, I said.

“I’m sure Pam’s going to jump in here,” he said, “but I completely disagree with you!”

“And it’s not his place,” said Pam, “to talk about the business.”

 


The questioner is Tim Marchman, he of the brutal Big Two take down that was the talk of the town a month ago. The questionee is Len Wein, comics Hall of Famer and the commissioning editor of WATCHMEN, as well as author of a prequel and the back-up Pirate series. And the alarmed PR person is DC’s Pam Mullen. Not that we personally disagree with many of Marchman’s conclusions, but with the comics industry so used to a docile press, the scene represents a gory wildebeest takedown where the cheetah never slows down.

The WATCHMEN logo has never seemed so appropriate an illustration.

Somehow, we doubt Marchman will be getting too many exclusives from DC in the near future. OTOH, the Daily Beast does understand that actual journalism trumps canned baby food. So who knows who’s next to get caught along out on the veidt veldt.

Comments

  1. Wait, a journalist talking to a writer and his company PR-minder and asking followup questions is “a gory wildebeest takedown where the cheetah never slows down”? Perhaps things *have* gotten way too soft in pop culture journalism!

  2. jonboy says:

    This isn’t journalism. Its yet another op-ed piece by yet another fanboy.

    When you purposely antagonize the person you are interviewing, or repeatedly insult the projectand the company, what else would one reasonably expect but a very vocal response?

    More shoddy work by people that are personally invested.

    Its really unfortunate that we can’t have ONE comics “news” site that isn’t completely biased.

  3. Jim C says:

    The irony.
    It burns.

  4. Goddamn I’m so sick of this. It’s now to the point where anything about Before Watchmen is becoming white noise. Can’t we just let it pass and let it fucking die? For once can we just stop pretending this is the industry’s greatest injustice? I know it’s a hit machine for sites but what does it say about the medium and the fandom that we constantly wallow in our own shit.

  5. jacob goddard says:

    Heidi, I think you and others are doing a fine job expressing the appropriate amount of outrage about this project.
    Nobody can expect to shut Before Watchmen down, just like nobody expected they could prevent production of the movie.

    You continue to educate visitors to your site about why this is intrinsicly soulless and wrong. Can’t ask for much more than that.

  6. The funniest part of this article is that on page 3, Tim says, “Not wanting to be rude…”

    Hey Tim, newsflash! You were rude in the first paragraph of this article when you came across as a self-righteous d bag who had an axe to grind instead of being an objective journalist.

    What a wasted opportunity to contribute to the dialogue. Instead this comes across as a whiney forum poster.

    Always remember Dalton’s rule #3 from Road House, “Be nice.”

  7. Noah, what’s rude is DC publishing it in the first place. You come across as a whiny forum poster.

    And Phil, some of us keep bringing it up with the intent to shame DC and everyone reading it. What DC has done and is doing is not okay.

    It would “be nice” if Didio, Lee and Johns lost their nice new jobs over this.

  8. And jonboy, no journalist should ever be “objective” when they witness immorality. That’s the same type of crap that keeps keeps the press from pretending the Republicans aren’t becoming an American Fascist Party.

  9. Porter Flabber says:

    oh no a journalist was *rude*! he had an opinion (or, should I say, an agenda!?), and why can’t we get people reporting objectively on certain ethical issues and lowbrow art? I mean why do we even need journalists when there are pr announcements? Just send an email with a questionnaire asking what superhero would beat the hoolc!

  10. Vaughan Johnson says:

    Seems like the intent of the article/interview was to get people talking about Tim Marchman again, not Before Watchmen. Mission accomplished.

  11. Shame? Really? That’s what we’re doing here? That’s pretty ridiculous. Carlton Im certain your coming from the right place but to think anyone outside there will be shamed into not reading it or even publishing it is silly. Absolutely nothing can be gained from this constantly (weekly? Biweekly?) wallowfest. Why stop at BW? Why not do it to marvel for how they treated Kirby? Or we can, I don’t know, move on and focus more on the more exciting happening outside the big 2 rather than dig out this carcass every once just so we can get some more whacks at it.

  12. Mikael says:

    The best thing about the BW nay-sayers, and how they are taking glee in some perceived “sticking it to DC” agenda, is how quickly they have turned into the raging fanboy baby-men they so often like to make fun of. See that? You’re no different BW haters. Welcome.

  13. Shawn Kane says:

    So there are those who are against DC for doing Before Watchmen because Alan Moore asked them not to do it. There are those who are for DC doing it for whatever reason and there are those who it doesn’t really bother but aren’t interested in the project either (me). What about the people that are buying the books and enjoying them? It’s hard for me to think that someone shouldn’t have the right to buy something.

  14. Since Watchmen was a self contained story, the only story to Before Watchmen is the controversy. How do these creators feel about themselves? Is there a moral line being crossed? Isn’t this the story of Before Watchmen? Who really gives a shit about Ozymandias’ daddy issues.

  15. Alistair Robb says:

    It’s a shame to see Len go wholly over to the dark side.

  16. I’m glad this interview made so many of you so upset. You deserve it. Happy Fourth of July!

  17. Shawn Kane says:

    I’m not upset but why do the people who are deserve it? That’s the problem with this entire Before Watchmen argument, either you’re against it or you’re the worst person ever…after Dan Didio and the creative teams, of course.

  18. Len Wein’s attempts to rationalize the project and his participation in it made me throw up in my mouth.

    Reading the comments threads full of whiny fanboys who just want their comic books to come out on time and for everyone to shut up about such inconvenient things as moral wrongs committed against actual human beings no longer make me want to throw up, because I’ve sadly grown used to them.

    Also, it’s completely pathetic that DC evidently gets away with this sort of shenanigans (i.e., “monitoring” creator interviews) in comics. Anyone who considers themselves a journalist and plays along with this sort of nonsense without divulging it to the audience is pathetic.

  19. Geez Sean, who’s being upset here? Sure they are different points of view than your own. So I guess the only thing we deserve is your disdain. Which I can live with.

  20. Shawn Kane says:

    I thought it was a bit ridiculous for Len Wein to have a PR person monitoring his interview. This whole thing has gotten out of hand on all sides but god, it’s fascinating!

  21. “That’s the problem with this entire Before Watchmen argument, either you’re against it or you’re the worst person ever…”

    Okay, why don’t we stop this straw-man bullshit right there. There’s nothing remotely in that direction in either the original article or Heidi’s piece. Marchman even says he’s looking forward to reading the BEFORE WATCHMEN books, and he’s self-deprecating about his personal decision not to buy them. There is no hardcore stance against readers of these books in his piece, whatsoever.

    There are, however, a some folks complaining that the story is being discussed at all, because it evidently offends their tender sensibilities to be brought in the position to consider its ethical dimensions.

  22. I have to agree with several other commenters and say that the article in question wasn’t quite the WWE Smackdown it was built up to be. Heck, no one even hung up in anger!

    And on the surface, agreeing to a promotional interview with a man who had done a Morton Downey Jr. style piece on the big two in general and Before Watchmen in particular might seem like a bad PR move, the Daily Beast is a blog connected to Newsweek magazine (A.K.A. the Mainstream Media) and, well, we’re talking about Before Watchmen here and now, a month into its run, because of that interview. As they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity and well, Wein issue of BW is getting publicity.

    I do have to laugh at Mullen saying ““And it’s not his place to talk about the business.” Because A) Wein was Moore and Gibbons’ editor on Watchmen which, as a non-comic insider speaking here, could mean that he must of had at least a passing knowledge of the contract the pair signed and B)Wein actually talked about business two questions before! Yes, he was there to talk about his book, but he already broke the seal on the business conversation. So Marchman’s question was at that point fair game.

  23. @Sean – Ha! That right there is my favorite Internet comment in, like, weeks.

    @Shawn – Having PR folks sit in on interviews is pretty common, regardless of the topic or person being interviewed. When I was a reporter (business/tech, not comics), the people I interviewed had PR reps with them probably 60-75% of the time, even high-level executives.

  24. Sorry I’m guess I’m one of the folks you’re referring too. My sensibilities are hardly offended. I guess I’m a little more cynical than to think that everyone takes a whack out of some higher calling and not for site traffic. Because if that was the case we should of had a lot more talk as avengers was making tons of money for Disney. At the very least Alan Moore gets paid from watchmen. The big 2 have been making money off of others works for decades without proper reward. Who has gotten screwed over more Alan Moore with watchmen or Len wein over his creations, most notably the x men creators? My point is that this outrage is verrryyy selective and i would rather move on, ensure it never happens again and focus on the, apparent, new indie boom.

  25. Tim Marchman is f@cking awesome. Awesome. These hacks get so put out by the criticism and questions leveled at every single business and enterprise in the free world. DC continues to act like a high-school yearbook committee. It’s embarrassing.

  26. “My point is that this outrage is verrryyy selective and i would rather move on, ensure it never happens again and focus on the, apparent, new indie boom.”

    But it’s happening right now. That’s the point. If you’re suggesting that shutting up about something happening right before your eyes helps to prevent it from happening again, I have to disagree.

    I agree with you that a lot of the outrage about Moore and WATCHMEN probably has to do with the fact that a lot of people consider it to be a great book, and that the creators of works perceived as being of less value don’t receive as much attention. (They are receiving some attention, though.)

    While that’s regrettable, it doesn’t mean this particular case should not be reported on, however. A wrong is a wrong is a wrong, even if others have been screwed as well, and even if Alan Moore acts a little funny sometimes.

    You seem to agree that Moore and other people have been and are getting screwed. I don’t understand in what world shutting up about it would constitute a desirable response.

  27. Synsidar says:

    A key paragraph in Marchman’s article might be:

    He makes two basic arguments, both convincing. The first is that fully realizing the power and value of the Watchmen brand and characters requires leaving them alone. The story is powerful because it is complete, loved because it has integrity, and by now exhausted. Best to leave it all alone: This is an old comic, launched the year Lena Dunham was born, and any energy spent humping its corpse would be better spent on something that might be relevant to someone somewhere.

    Why separate the characters from WATCHMEN? What aesthetic purpose does that serve?

    Absolutely none.

    SRS

  28. @Carlton because I don’t agree with you, I’m a whiny forum poster? Really? The tone of this article is the same tone that is ruining political journalism; reporters shouting at their interview subjects instead of doing their job (watch Newsroom). And even your comment to me is a bit nasty. Agree to disagree and refrain from personal attacks.

    FYI, having PR people in the room during interviews is a standard practice in any number of industries (I’ve heard Marvel roundtables with PR people on the line for such mundane things as Daredevils artist change).

    It’s done because there are questions that need to be redirected to other sources.

    Had Tim actually been polite, she probably would have put him in touch with someone who could answer the question for him and it’d have made for a better article. But considering the tone of the article she probably realized he’d probably already written the piece before he started the interview and it wasn’t worth pursing with him.

    I’m not pro or anti Before Watchmen. I’m just for having some good journalism in comic books, and this is not it.

  29. Right Marc all good points. I guess that, while it’s happening right now, I can’t really damn a project that the creators get compensated for and even with ones blessing. The press and attention that is paid to it is so far out weighed by the actual injustice. And while it’s happening right now there are countless and, quite frankly, faceless creators who arent fairly compensated right now.

  30. “Had Tim actually been polite, she probably would have put him in touch with someone who could answer the question for him and it’d have made for a better article.”

    Your definition of journalism is unconvincing.

    There is no reason why Len Wein, of all people, who was the editor of the original WATCHMEN, should not be able to comment on the issue – no reason that wasn’t made up by DC to avoid bad press, that is. And that’s not a standard that should be a concern to anyone who’s not on their payroll.

    Mullen is doing her job, and so is Marchman. Most people covering comics aren’t doing their jobs.

  31. @Marc Wein hasn’t worked as an employee of DC Comics since the 80’s (he’s currently categorized as a freelancer). So, while you are correct that he might be able to talk about business practices when he was at the company in the 80’s, he would have no reference to any number of conversations and dealings with Moore/Gibbons that have occurred since then. As a result, who knows if any of what he saw/did back then is still valid. It might only further confuse the issue. We don’t know, but clearly they do (and yes, they’re not telling us).

    BTW, my definition of journalism is presenting facts and not yelling at interview subjects. But that’s just me.

  32. “As a result, who knows if any of what he saw/did back then is still valid.”

    I don’t see a reason why asking Wein’s opinion as one of the writers, as Moore’s editor, or simply as an individual should be impolite, or should not be valid.

    Moore, as the co-creator and moral co-owner of the book and its characters, has said in very clear terms that he doesn’t want this to happen. It’s perfectly valid to ask anyone involved if they don’t think that matters, or why.

  33. @Marc I suspect that if Tim’s tone on the phone was anything like the article, there was probably also a large (and valid) fear from Wein that he’d be misquoted.

  34. “BTW, my definition of journalism is presenting facts and not yelling at interview subjects. But that’s just me.”

    Let’s try and have this discussion without distorting the piece and what’s actually going on with it, by the way. (I think it’s extremely unlikely Marchman was “yelling,” if that really needs to be pointed out. Jesus Christ.)

  35. @Noah Did you read the article? When did Marchman yell at anyone? You sight “Newsroom” as an example of journalism when the whole point of that particular show is being confrontational and asking difficult questions. At no point in that show is Jeff Daniels nice or deferential to anyone. I cannot figure out what your point is here. Marchman is doing exactly what journalist are supposed to do, asking questions. You might not like them but that’s journalism.

  36. @Marc I’m not distorting the piece, go back and read it but it’s clear you have your opinion and you are entitled to it. That’s fine. We can agree to disagree.

    The tone of the article is overly aggressive and it’s a fair assumption that is how Tim approached the interview. Why else would Wein be described by Tim as, “yelling at me…he was speaking with exclamation marks” for a standard interview?

    I can’t say I’m an expert on Wein, but I don’t recall ever hearing about him yelling or being hostile towards reporters. So, something got him to that point. It’s times like this that an audio recording of that interview would come in handy…

  37. @Jesse see my comment to Marc. Not having heard the interview, we do not know the tone or the number of questions that occurred during the interview. The only thing I have to go on is the overall tone of the article, and that is hostile. So I am assuming that was his interviewing style. But we don’t know how it went down, and we probably won’t because that audio recording is not available to us.

    And you’re right. Asking the difficult questions is journalism. No question. But looking at this article objectively, it doesn’t speak to me as quality journalism. My personal interpretation is a person with an axe to grind.

  38. Noah, the sentence you just claimed to be quoting reads in full:

    “I wouldn’t say he was yelling at me, but he was speaking with exclamation marks, which because he seems like a nice guy, I’d ascribe at least in part to occupational hazards.”

    That’s what I mean when I suggest you’re distorting what’s going on. So please excuse me if I don’t regard you as an authority on journalism, or “facts.”

  39. Tim Marchman says:

    I think the article speaks for itself, including the parts where I specifically mention that Len Wein wasn’t yelling at me and that we had a perfectly pleasant talk about comics after the talk about business was shut down.

  40. @Noah, some of the questions are uncomfortable, but not aggressive. Marchman is trying to do his job. The story everybody wants- the creators’ thoughts on betraying their own. Len Wein was an editor of Watchmen, what does he think about the controversy? DC knows that this is the story, and now they monitor interviews with PR people.
    DC has completely given up on the concept of artistic merit at this point. Now creators can’t express themselves in interviews, or defend their motives. There is no creative room left at DC.

  41. @Marc saying he’s a “nice guy” after saying he’s talking in exclamation points is the same thing as when someone says, “No offense, but..” and wasn’t pertinent to the point I was making about the tone Tim was describing Wein was making. You’ll notice I put ellipsis specifically because I wanted to clarify that I had not used the entire sentence. I should have probably put them in the front and back of the quote. That’s an editing error on my part. Sure.

    And please, you know absolutely nothing about me or my background, so don’t pretend that you know what I do or do not know about journalism.

  42. Synsidar says:

    But looking at this article objectively, it doesn’t speak to me as quality journalism. My personal interpretation is a person with an axe to grind.

    Marchman merely asked Wein what many people have asked: What’s the justification for BEFORE WATCHMEN?

    Not wanting to be rude, slightly mystified by the implied statute of limitations on ethical actions, and intrigued by the idea that if you ask someone if you can do something for long enough you can eventually just do it without their assent, I moved into a more general line about whether telling the back stories of such deliberately vague characters might not remove a bit of their mystique.

    “I think it’s a question of taste,” said Wein. “There are those who want to know more, and there are always those who want to know more. And there are those who just are happy with what they’ve got.

    But what’s the point of knowing more about them? They’re not celebrities, not people you can strike up conversations with. They were constructs created specifically for the purpose of telling the story in WATCHMEN. And when they’re made into characters in endless serials, they’re generally written as plot devices or simple, unchanging archetypes, less than one gets from practically any standalone story.

    SRS

  43. Noah:

    “You’ll notice I put ellipsis specifically because I wanted to clarify that I had not used the entire sentence.”

    The point is that the actual quote says THE OPPOSITE of the part that you chose to quote.

    Nor do I understand why you’d think Marchman was yelling when Marchman says that Wein ‘was speaking with exclamation marks.’

    And you’re certainly right that I don’t know your background. I just see your comments here, and someone who’s misquoting people, like you have, does not strike me as a good go-to source on journalistic etiquette. I’m sorry if that bothers you, but if you’re as knowledgeable on journalism as you say, I’m sure you understand why I would draw that conclusion.

  44. And what’s up with Len Wein anyway? He doesn’t find it weird to conduct a comic book interview with a bodyguard?
    This should probably tip him off to get a clue.

  45. Wein is obviously reasoning with himself. His rational for accepting Before Watchmen is based on legal interpretations, and a uncooperative Alan Moore. So, he takes morality out of his equation, and assumes absolutely no blame in the controversial practice of betraying a friendship, exploiting art, and exploiting a working partnership. So, obviously he needs a bodyguard…The man is his own worst enemy.
    You throw enough money at a man, and he can feign ignorance to anything.

  46. Aaron Malchow says:

    Tim Marchman,

    That was an unusual article. Given the limitations placed on Len Wein by the DC representative and the limitations placed on you by the vague embargo you mentioned, I am still trying to imagine how the interview with Wein was arranged in the first place.

    When you contacted Wein, what did you say was the focus of the article you were working on? Did you indicate that the article would be released before or after the embargo?

    Sincerely,
    Aaron Malchow

  47. Shawn Kane says:

    “Okay, why don’t we stop this straw-man bullshit right there. There’s nothing remotely in that direction in either the original article or Heidi’s piece. Marchman even says he’s looking forward to reading the BEFORE WATCHMEN books, and he’s self-deprecating about his personal decision not to buy them. There is no hardcore stance against readers of these books in his piece, whatsoever.”

    Not the piece (I actually agree with much of what Tim Marchman says in his articles), I was referring to the various comments that have been posted on sites such as the Beat and others. As I’ve stated before, I read Watchmen when it came out and enjoyed it and always recommended it to people to read. I’m just neither excited nor offended by Before Watchmen but the vitriol from those who oppose it can be kind of shocking. Not counting the trolls that are just being contrarian to flame people up but someone who wants to read JMS writing Night Owl (I don’t know why) doesn’t really bother me anymore than someone who wants to read Brian Bendis write Spider-Man. I think that alot of this is just people with an ax to grind against DC Comics for whatever reason. A righteous stand for creator’s rights is admirable but slagging people that you disagree with (not unlike the people that take shots at you in the comments on posts about DC’s sales charts) is just something that I don’t get. The stuff that tends to bother me the most is when people take swipes at Amanda Connor, Darwin Cooke, and other creators involved like they’re some kind of criminal for thinking that they have the ability to add to Watchmen’s legacy seems ridiculous to me. I DO think JMS is a bad writer, slag him all you want for that.

  48. Shawn Kane says:

    But Len Wein has made me throw up in my mouth once as well…with the famous “Cripple the bitch” line when Alan Moore wanted to have Batgirl shot in the Killing Joke.

  49. Shawn:

    “I was referring to the various comments that have been posted on sites such as the Beat and others.”

    I see no comments here that damn everyone who isn’t ‘against’ BEFORE WATCHMEN, as you were suggesting. By the second comment in this thread, however, Marchman and Heidi are attacked for reporting the story, and by the fourth comment, someone’s sick of the story being reported. And so on. In other places on the comics-related Internet where the issue has come up, stances seem to be distributed similarly.

    “I think that alot of this is just people with an ax to grind against DC Comics for whatever reason.”

    Sure. And I think much of this is people being protective of Marvel and DC regardless of ethics, because they’re worried about ‘their’ characters more than about human people. We’ll never know, though.

    “The stuff that tends to bother me the most is when people take swipes at Amanda Connor, Darwin Cooke, and other creators involved like they’re some kind of criminal for thinking that they have the ability to add to Watchmen’s legacy seems ridiculous to me.”

    I haven’t seen anyone suggest that Azzarello, Straczynski, Connor, Cooke, Wein, et al. are criminals. I have seen people suggest that the notion of ‘adding to the legacy of WATCHMEN’ is an eminently silly thing, given the book’s nature, and that participating in the project is an ethically rotten thing to do.

    I agree on both counts. That doesn’t mean I hate those creators or think it’s fair game to insult them. But surely, if we’re of the opinion that what somebody is doing is morally wrong, we’re allowed to say so.

  50. They’re not really “shady business dealings”, just absolutely deplorable creative decisions. And lack of morality has nothing to do with what’s legal, unfortunately. Unfortunately a lot of people can’t see the difference here.

  51. Game, set, match to Marc-Oliver Frisch.

    Well played.

  52. Mark-Oliver Frisch I am now waiting on articles from you.

  53. I was kinda baffled by the presence of a PR person at all, given that it was Paul Levitz. Surely if ANYONE at DC can be trusted to speak on the record to ANYONE, it would be Levitz, right? I wonder if that’s just the way DC operates now, or if it was special, given the controversial nature of the comic under discussion?

    The only thing I found disappointing about the article was that Marchman didn’t ask–or didn’t refer to asking–the most obvious question of Levitz. Why didn’t DC do this during the twenty-some years Levitz was publisher, and, now that he’s not publisher and they ARE doing it, why is he participating? From the outside looking it in, it seems like one of the things Levitz had prevented DC from doing for years and years.

    Anyway, it was a pretty great article overall, and it’s always nice to read a real interview…there are so relatively few of them in comics coverage today

  54. MBunge says:

    “Reading the comments threads full of whiny fanboys who just want their comic books to come out on time and for everyone to shut up about such inconvenient things as moral wrongs committed against actual human beings no longer make me want to throw up, because I’ve sadly grown used to them.”

    Yeah, those LOEG and Lost Girls fanboys annoy the crap outta me!

    Mike

  55. >> I was kinda baffled by the presence of a PR person at all, given that it was Paul Levitz.>>

    Len Wein is taller than Paul, and has a beard.

    But other than that, they’re both terrific writers and editors, knowledgable fans and great conversationalists, so I can see how it might be easy to confuse the two.

    But Paul is not, as far as I know, working on BEFORE WATCHMEN.

  56. Len Wein is taller than Paul, and has a beard.

    AAAAAAAA! Damn it, why do I comment before I have coffee? Sorry, sorry, sorry everyone who read my comment. I am, obviously, baffled in general.

    I am going to go fake my own death and change my name now, so as to avoid the shame of somehow mistaking two completely different people with one another because, I don’t know, they both have L’s in their names, I guess…

  57. The reason why morality, and class are such a big story in Before Watchmen is because we have few, if any examples of art at the Big 2 other than Watchmen. Moore had successfully created a self contained property within a DC banner. Most of us working in comics, for Marvel/DC, dream of producing work that matters. We are denied this by work/hire contracts, but Moore/Gibbons were able to negotiate a unique deal that allowed them to create work that matters with “real” consequences for their characters.
    With Watchmen as the industry example of artistic merit in comics there is a real moral dilemma in tearing down art, betrayed relationships, and a future for artistic merit in the mainstream.

    I often wonder if Batman was meant to die at the end of DK Returns, or Barb Gordon in Killing Joke. The fact that the writers had no option to at least consider (for better/worse) denies them the goal that Watchmen achieves.

    I think the creators at Before Watchmen should have to answer these questions.

  58. “Also, it’s completely pathetic that DC evidently gets away with this sort of shenanigans (i.e., “monitoring” creator interviews) in comics. Anyone who considers themselves a journalist and plays along with this sort of nonsense without divulging it to the audience is pathetic.”

    I can’t attest to how often it has happened in comic book interviews, but, given the author’s previous comments about the Before Watchmen project, I couldn’t blame them for wanting a flack monitoring.

    By the way, PR flacks monitor phone interviews in nearly all other entertainment publicity. I used to listen to Opie & Anthony and can’t tell you how many times they took a conversation in a direction that led the PR rep to speak up to redirect the conversation or end the call.

    Someone writing for the Daily Beast or the Wall Street Journal can dare to take the tact Marchman has adopted (which I believe goes past good journalism and into immature territory), because those publications don’t have their earnings determined by regular access to the dominant comic book companies in the market.

    I may not always agree with Heidi or Rich Johnston, but I’m glad that they seem able to make enough money through their ventures without having to relent to the whims of DC or Marvel. I hope that the move to digital brings enough popularity to more non-Big-Two works to make it even easier for writers to seek out and speak the truth.

  59. Web Behrens says:

    I won’t bother to comment on the broader controversy of Before Watchmen, as all perspectives have been represented for months now (both eloquently and with much hyperbole and name calling). I’ll simply add, as a professional journalist, that interviews get monitored by PR reps all the time, in many industries. As a couple of other commenters have noted, in this regard, DC is not doing anything out of the ordinary or unseemly.

  60. Paul Mellerick says:

    I have two questions about the BW situation that I’ve raised before elsewhere, but still haven’t really had an answer to. I want to preface these questions by stating that I have no particular axe to grind either way, I see both sides of the argument, although I maybe edge a little more towards the pragmatic and legal side, rather than the ethical side, for reasons I’ll explain.

    Okay, firstly, the way that Moore has been “treated” by DC is the exact same way that virtually every working director and writer in movies and tv is treated. I don’t see the same level of vitriol and passionate online farago over Samantha Darko, when it’s quite clear that Richard Kelly would rather Donnie Darko stood alone. Why is that? I understand that hollywood peeps tend to understand what they’re signing on for, whereas with Moore the landscape changed around him, but legally this is what Moore agreed to, if not ethically. But we’re talking degrees of ethic here.

    Secondly, Moore himself does use other people’s creations, shamelessly. When asked about his use of The Black Terror, a character that lapsed into the public domain when its publisher failed to renew the copyright and trademarks (and for which creator Richard Hughes, who also created Herbie, received little recompense), Moore said “I used someone else’s creations because I love these characters, and I wasn’t legally obligated to give Hughes any credit, so I didn’t.” Thanks to Ty Templeton by the way, who I learnt that from!
    So, again, if we’re talking ethics, I’d include the oft-repeated argument that there are plenty of other creators that have also lost far more control of their own creations, Wein in particular with Swamp Thing and Wolverine, and been rewarded far less. Why the particular opprobrium here?

  61. Paul Mellerick says:

    Oh, but Toby? “The reason why morality, and class are such a big story in Before Watchmen is because we have few, if any examples of art at the Big 2 other than Watchmen.”

    Really? So Ronin, Fables, Preacher, Marzi, Four Janes, Thriller, DMZ, Silver Surfer Sacrifice, Dark Knight, Born Again, Moore’s Swamp Thing, We3, Stuck Rubber Baby, Why I Hate Saturn, Moonshadow, Flex Mentallo, just off the top of my head. None of that’s art? Wow, you have high standards…

  62. Charles Knight says:

    I don’t know about the rest of you but for me – this is a serious piece of work – for years I have wondered how Veidt obtained that piece of hashish that he said that he obtained in Tibet – Wein clears this up in a masterful way – a man in Tibet gave it to him!

    That has been puzzling me for over 25 years!

    THANK YOU DC!

  63. @Paul Mellerick

    couple of differences.

    Concerning your Donnie D comparison, the sequel did get vicious reviews, and I remember an outcry from a vocal minority. Like you said, Richard Kelly has distanced himself of any responsibility.
    However I think you have a good point. The problem is in comics there is an unbalance of ownership within the mainstream. Movies, music, literacy all have their battles of rights won/lost, but in comics there is the perception that every battle for creative ownership is a losing battle.

    As for Black Terror. Ty made some dramatic leaps to illustrate his argument. The Black Terror property lapsed into public domain, Watchmen hasn’t. Ethically, Moore is not innocent, and hasn’t created Watchmen to be a signal for creator’s rights. So his motive for using Black Terror wasn’t as an example for creators, but a common practice for authors. Moore is no champion for creator’s rights.
    Watchmen is ultimately Moore’s property, DC has property rights until it goes out of print. So, unfortunately Moore is powerless to protect his property while in DC’s care until the rights revert to him. Black Terror was a public domain property.

    Wein signed a work/hire contract. So he willingly signed his rights away to Wolverine/Swamp-Thing.

    -“Really? So Ronin, Fables, Preacher, Marzi, Four Janes, Thriller, DMZ, Silver Surfer Sacrifice, Dark Knight, Born Again, Moore’s Swamp Thing, We3, Stuck Rubber Baby, Why I Hate Saturn, Moonshadow, Flex Mentallo, just off the top of my head. None of that’s art? Wow, you have high standards…”

    You misunderstand.

    I said- “I often wonder if Batman was meant to die at the end of DK Returns, or Barb Gordon in Killing Joke. The fact that the writers had no option to at least consider (for better/worse) denies them the goal that Watchmen achieves.”

    Yes we have examples of art OUTSIDE mainstream publishing.
    Watchmen is one of our few examples of art INSIDE mainstream publishing because Moore was allowed to create his own self contained story of risk/consequence.

    Born Again, Dark Knight, Killing Joke etc…very good stories, but not art because ultimately the creators had no control over their own story’s fate.

  64. Shawn Kane says:

    “But surely, if we’re of the opinion that what somebody is doing is morally wrong, we’re allowed to say so.”

    I totally agree. I’m not interested in Before Watchmen because I think it’s a bad idea. It doesn’t feel right to me but I stop short of saying that I believe all involved are morally wrong. You’ve seen the name calling that I’m talking about I’m sure and that’s what irks me about the entire situation. I hope the Beat stays with all this stuff about it because once you filter out the trolls, it’s a great debate.

  65. “And it’s not his place,” said Pam, “to talk about the business.”

    LOL!!

    Know your place, Len!

  66. Paul:

    The difference is that Moore believes he’s the moral owner of these characters and this book, and he’s right here, and he says he doesn’t want this to happen. This is very simple and straightforward, actually.

    I don’t know if he’s ever said anything that might have made him a hypocrite on the issue, and if he has, I don’t think that affects the issue at hand. The notion that it’s okay to screw people who may have behaved hypocritically or in otherwise disagreeable ways in their lives does not seem logically or ethically sound to me, and I don’t agree with it.

  67. Yeah,

    Ty Templeton’s argument months ago was an attempt to portray Moore as a hypocrite. Moore believes he was tricked by DC, and he believes that he is the owner of Watchmen…which he is.

    Moore is notoriously protective of his own work, and his rights… to a fault. His attempt to avoid the mistakes other creators have made have made him a symbol for creator’s rights, but a frail one at best.

    He has always admitted to the traditional practice of borrowing an author’s character for a story in fun. Efforts like these, such as Black Terror & LoEG might be considered Moore’s nostalgia for a more civilized age. However, It doesn’t make him a hypocrite because a media company takes his creations, distorts them, and presents them to his public as fact. Some might say it makes him a prophet.

  68. Nate A. says:

    If you don’t already understand the difference between someone writing a character that is in the public domain and someone writing a disputed property then there’s nothing anyone can say or write that’s going to make you understand it.
    If you don’t already understand the difference between someone writing a pastiche/parody of a character and someone writing an “official” prequel to a story that was supposed to be a discrete, then there’s nothing anyone can say or write that’s going to make you understand it.

  69. Paul Mellerick says:

    Thanks guys, very well put all of you. Apart from Nate – there are way more grey shades in this than you’re right or you’re wrong. It’s not a disputed property, other than in Moore’s ideal world, and BW has as much validity as Terra Obscura, ie, exactly as much validity as you choose to give it.

    I think the fact that there are an enormous amount of components to this argument mean there can’t really be a right or wrong, just personal opinion, regardless of how strong your feelings might be either way. Although, when it comes down to it, these things are stories. The existence of one doesn’t invalidate or dilute the other, there are no facts to distort, because they are all fictions. To use the same example as earlier,I don’t love Donnie Darko any less for the existence of Samantha Darko.

    Anyway, this is an argument that should be had over several pints and a couple of hours. Shame I’m not going to SDCC, I’m sure it’s going to be one of the biggest topics of conversation!

  70. Allen Rubinstein says:

    Whether or not Moore has been screwed is of less importance to me than the fact that DC is about to shellack one of the acknowledged classics of the medium. Their pointless add-ons will be interwoven into the delicate continuity of that book, and come nowhere near its quality. Why can’t they just count themselves lucky to have it and leave it the fuck alone?

  71. Shawn Kane says:

    My conversation with Marc has been on my mind and you know what? I guess the reason that I could care less about Before Watchmen is because I DO think it’s a bad idea. All along, I’ve thought “Let DC print it if they want to” but deep down, I realize that it is a pointless venture. I’ll stop short of saying that the talent involved is wasted on such a project because there is definitely some fantastic artwork but honestly, I’d much prefer to see those people doing work on something else because , while I’m not a huge Alan Moore fan, Watchmen was something special the first time that I read it and there is truly no point to these stories.

  72. Synsidar says:

    Apart from Nate – there are way more grey shades in this than you’re right or you’re wrong.

    The overarching problem with BEFORE WATCHMEN is the handling of the WATCHMEN characters. As someone reads WATCHMEN, he’s probably reacting to Moore’s deconstruction of the superhero. Moore reportedly stated that a main theme in WATCHMEN was anti-Reaganism, and the idea that America was the invincible superpower; he also reportedly wrote that in the process of writing WATCHMEN, he purged himself of his nostalgia for superheroes. Rorschach is a memorable antihero in WATCHMEN, but he’s also defined within it as completely as he needs to be for the purpose of the story. There’s no reason to mourn his death in WATCHMEN, to want to see another story with him, to want to see Dr. Manhattan again, or to wonder whether Juspeczyk and Dreiberg ever have kids. There’s no particular reason to want to read a Batman story after reading WATCHMEN either, since Rorschach is Batman written with a purpose in mind and frighteningly, realistically insane, not just as insane as he needs to be for the purpose of fighting crime.

    The prequels rob the WATCHMEN characters of their literary qualities. Someone doesn’t have to read the prequels to know that; DC’s marketing of the prequels tells him that, as does Wein’s statement about readers wanting to know more about them. Compared to a reader who values WATCHMEN for its literary qualities, that’s as strange as, years after reading a romance novel, wondering what the happy couple are doing today on the Fourth. That’d be nice to know. They don’t exist outside of the romance novel.

    The treatment of the characters in BEFORE WATCHMEN illustrates the belief that, for superhero comics readers, the character is more important than the story. As long as he looks good, and can be written appealingly, the quality of the particular story he’s in doesn’t matter; it doesn’t have to be written with any particular purpose in mind, beyond giving readers several minutes to play with their toys and to delude themselves, perhaps, with the notion that the hero actually exists somewhere, in one of the many universes out there, and is fighting crime even while he’s being read about. If he is real, why does it matter who writes about him? It could be anyone.

    SRS

  73. Christian says:

    “Also, it’s completely pathetic that DC evidently gets away with this sort of shenanigans (i.e., “monitoring” creator interviews) in comics. Anyone who considers themselves a journalist and plays along with this sort of nonsense without divulging it to the audience is pathetic.”

    AMEN.

    I for one fully support this gory wildebeest and think that we as a community would be better for having more of it. If DC and the rest of the comics community want to grow and put on big boy pants its time that they start taking on the hard questions. For too long we’ve had to stomach these pablum interviews where nothing of merit gets discussed until 20 years later in some lame ass Comics Journal-esque interview where everyone is about ten years past give-a-shit-expiration dates.

    Go for the jugular! Let’s air out these ghosts in the closet. I think it’s very dismissive to refer to someone from the Daily Beast as just another fanboy on an entitlement rampage. I mean, it’s not like the chick from DCWKA got on the mic, this is an actual journalist. Nobody calls Rachel Maddow a fangirl when she asks the tough questions.

    Really though, I’m more embarrassed for Mullen for having to blow her cover and look like a total corporate tool. DC’s entire publicity department (especially online) has in the past ranged from fairly decent to downright laughable and this is not one of their finest moments.

    And unlike the previous commenter, I don’t listen to sub-par radio like O&A. I’m a Stern man and I believe that if you sit down to do an interview you’d better be ready to answer all the questions – even the tough ones – or don’t sit down at all. Simple as that.

  74. Dennis V. says:

    I’m enjoying BEFORE WATCHMEN and not ashamed to say so!

  75. Don Murphy says:

    The ignorance of the Moore supporters on this board continues to explain so much to me, like why someone would join Scientology and how Madoff happened. Particularly stupid is this Frisch guy- “Alan considers himself the moral owner of Watchmen”
    Awesome! Have you ever sat with the guy? If you want to support everything he considers, get ready for WW3.
    Gullibles.

  76. Don:

    That’s a misquote, actually. I’ve certainly never referred to Moore as “Alan.”

    As for the rest, I’m afraid it’s got nothing to do with what anyone considers; Moore co-created it, Moore morally co-owns it. End of story.

  77. Is anyone watching the synonymous Hollywood story concerning the Raging Bull prequel?

  78. Otistfirefly says:

    Moore signed a contract. DC is allowed by law to publish it. If Moore could legally prevent this from happening, I’m sure he would…right? End of story.

    Kirby: fucked by the big 2. Moore: NOT SO MUCH.

    Just curious-do you guys have large busts of Moore in your homes with candles under it that you light on a daily basis?

  79. Don Murphy says:

    Frisch- the accuracy of the quote stands. Your lesson on morals is feeble. Does Stan Lee morally own Spider-Man? Spare me your bullshit and go create something cool and then have a lawyer look at your contract.

  80. If Moore could legally prevent this from happening, I’m sure he would…right? End of story.

    As Moore has said publicly before, he could pursue legal remedy, but part of doing so would be staying silent until the case could be resolved (and these cases could take a long time). He said he prefers to be able to criticize DC for further exploiting Watchmen than to NOT say anything negative about their further exploitation until the case could be settled.

  81. Don:

    I’m positive your sense of morality is as keen as your quoting prowess.

  82. Otistfirefly says:

    <<<<As Moore has said publicly before, he could pursue legal remedy, but part of doing so would be staying silent until the case could be resolved (and these cases could take a long time). He said he prefers to be able to criticize DC for further exploiting Watchmen than to NOT say anything negative about their further exploitation until the case could be settled.

    Translation: he could PURSUE LEGAL REMEDY, but won't because he most likely knows he can't win. Hell, you or I could PURSUE legal remedy on this case…so what?

  83. Jesse says:

    “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Moore is morally right, DC is legally right.

  84. Child Using the Name of a Grouch Marx Character Rather Than Your Own,

    You said if Moore could legally prevent Before Watchmen, he would do so. I noted that he’s already explained why he’s not attempting to do so. Then you said something completely different.

    So forget it. One of these days I’ll learn not to respond to comment threads…

  85. Otistfirefly says:

    Well Caleb, if you REALLY knew anything, you’d know my screen name is not actually a Groucho character. Nice try at some sort of smack-down. You just betrayed your own ignorance.

    And gee I’m the only screen name here…! You really put me in my place by using “child” in there! Yer a badass dude!

    You said Moore blah blah blah. You “explained” Moore etc etc. Then I actually explained your feeble rationalization of Moore’s lack of legal action. What’s the problem? IF HE COULD win he would sue…his “explanation” …YOU BELIEVE THAT? Wow!

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