Heidi’s post on Before Watchmen is a strong and potent brew.
Do I think that Before Watchmen is the worst thing that any comic book company has ever done — or even the worst thing that any comic book company is doing currently? No. Sorry, I still don’t.
In the comics industry, the worst can be so very, very, very bad (stories of the destitute creators of billion-dollar franchises setting up PayPal donation drives from their sickbeds so that they can pay money that they owe to the publishers who ripped them off in the first place, that kind of thing) that normal, everyday stupidities do kind of pale.
When this story broke, it seemed to me that there were other issues — Gary Friedrich’s situation not the least of them — that deserved more attention, but that Moore’s status as a fan favorite allowed him to take what was a simple business dispute and gin it up into an outrage. That’s why I was flippant about it before.
Heidi’s point is that the normal, stupid, everyday disrespect for creators is the environment in which the larger, desperate, tragic outrages are allowed to breed and fester. You can’t disconnect them. Disrespect for creators is the sickness at the heart of the industry. For a brief moment in the late eighties and early nineties (a moment which, as Heidi notes, happened to coincide with the publication of Watchmen) it seemed that things would change. Before Watchmen makes it resoundingly clear that they did not. And that’s why people who were involved in those battles back then (I was not) seem so disproportionately upset over this dispute between, let’s face it, a wealthy writer and his former publisher.
It is, as Heidi’s post title puts it, the creator’s position — every creator’s position — as viewed through the lens of Alan Moore, that is ultimately so sad. If the comics industry can’t keep even its top talent, its once-in-a-century superstar, its biggest money-maker in decades, happy, what chance does anybody else have? Nobody will never get a better shake than Alan Moore did, and the shake he got was nothing but bitter stems and seeds. It gets worse from here.
I get it. Finally. Fuck Before Watchmen.