Watchmen, Marvelman, and Moore.

§ July 22nd, 2010 § Filed under watchmen § 18 Comments

From this article, spotted on the Twitter:

“However, DC comics co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee said, ‘Watchmen is the most celebrated graphic novel of all time. Rest assured, DC Comics would only revisit these iconic characters if the creative vision of any proposed new stories matched the quality set by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons nearly 25 years ago, and our first discussion on any of this would naturally be with the creators themselves.’”

1. Did DiDio and Lee say it simultaneously, in harmony? Did they sing it to the tune of “Money” from Cabaret?

2. Is this the first public statement that DC would be willing to do new Watchmen stories, whether or not Moore and Gibbons are involved? Because, dude, I’ve got one comic book story in me, and that story is Watchmen 2: Seymour Rising.

But seriously, if there were other statements along those lines in the past, I don’t recall them. Mostly I seem to remember “oh, we wouldn’t cheapen the original with spin-offs” or “if Moore and Gibbons ever want to come back, sure.” But this is the first time they said they’d be more to happy to publish Watchmen Two-in-One #1, Batman and the Comedian, by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, which I realize they didn’t actually say as such, but I think we can read between the lines, there.

Johanna Draper Carson had commented on her Twitter thingie about it, to which I responded, essentially, that if the Watchmen movie hadn’t killed sales on the graphic novel to the point that DC felt it was necessary to rebuild interest in the series via new material, that we’re probably safe from non-Moore/Gibbons follow-ups. Of course, that doesn’t mean it will never happen, but I think the time for it to happen was during the movie’s lifespan. Of course, we are talking about the comics industry, where barn doors are always closed after the horses have escaped, so new Watchmen material being produced years after its chance at getting as large a potential audience as possible wouldn’t surprise me.

Speaking of Alan Moore, guess who wasn’t mentioned once in this week’s Marvelman Primer? The one mention of Moore’s 1980s revival of the character is a passing mention from a full-page plug for Marvel’s 1950s Marvelman reprint projects:

“If you only know him from his dark, deconstructionist ’80s revival, then you don’t know Marvelman!”

Of course, that ignores the fact that the “dark, deconstructionist ’80s revival” is the Marvelman work most people are primarily curious about. The reprints of the ’50s stories are amusingly entertaining, granted, but it feels like treading water until the details are sorted out with getting those ’80s stories back in print.

Back to Moore…there are plenty of opportunities to bring him up, by the way: there’s a discussion of British comics publishing which mentions Warrior, the magazine where Marvelman’s revival originally appeared, but is not mentioned in the article at all. There’s another history specifically of Marvel’s forays into British comics, which cites their Captain Britain series and mentions creators such as Steve Parkhouse, Chris Claremont, Paul Neary and John Stokes, but does not mention Moore, who wrote what are probably the best-known and most sought-after of the UK-edition Captain Britain comics.

I have no idea how far along, if at all, Marvel is regarding the rerelease of the ’80s Marvelman work. If the answer is “not very,” then I suppose it’s in their best interest to deemphasize that particular run for the time being, especially if they have new material in the works of a different revival of the franchise. But the ’80s comics are very noticeable in their absence from a publication intended to be an overview and introduction to these characters, particularly when the detailed historical articles gloss right over their publications and the writer behind that relaunch.

Or maybe nobody else cares any more, Marvel feels no obligation to cater to that handful of folks who recall some short-run Marvelman series from 25 years ago, and only big ol’ nerds like me are getting all worked up about it. That too is a possibility.

18 Responses to “Watchmen, Marvelman, and Moore.”

  • Mathew says:

    I could be wrong, but I thought I read somewhere that there was a problem locating all of the film for the Eclipse stuff. Some may even have been outright destroyed when the Eclipse offices were flooded at one point.

    The reprints of the 50’s stuff is interesting (and hopefully Mick Anglo is benefiting financially) but it does feel like Marvel is kind of vamping for time.

  • Tim O'Neil says:

    It seems perfectly reasonable to me that Marvel might sincerely believe that what people really want is Marvelman himself, out of a fondness for the Marvelman property, and not any specific run of stories. We’re not supposed to become so attached to the creators attached to any particular IP!

    It’s somewhat comparable to DC’s continued attempts to make the Spirit work as an ongoing character in a somewhat modern context: the fondness for the Spirit concept is dwarfed for most people by their fondness of and respect for Eisner’s work (with his talented assistants). Mainstream companies can’t really understand the way some characters are eclipsed by their creators, because it is anathematic for them to contemplate the idea that there is an irreducible factor in these IP that can’t be replicated at will. Marvel got the rights to Marvelman undoubtedly because they believed at some point down the road they could make real money off the property – and not just hardcover reprint money. A respectful reprint program is only the first step towards the The return on their investment, a project ultimately aimed at rehabilitating the IP so they can make new Marvelman stories and toys and movies. I’m certain that if we could read the company’s “mind,” it would say that while reprinting the Moore / Gaiman work might be nice if they can make it happen, the whole point is eventually to revamp the character for future use.

    It will be interesting to see if Marvel will begin to actively appropriate more of these kind of loose IPs floating around, now that they’ve got much deeper pockets.

  • Old Bull Lee says:

    Tim – I can see where you’re coming from, but I don’t think the companies are quite so ignorant in regards to the value of, for example, the Spirit vs. Will Eisner.

    I think it’s more that since they own it, they may as well milk what they can out of it.

    Marvel may never be able to do anything with the Moore/Gaiman stuff, but if they can slap together something with Marvelman on it and make a few bucks, they don’t see any reason not to.

  • Old Bull Lee says:

    Sorry, hit the button too soon –

    On the consumer side, of course everyone will know they’re not getting Moore and Gaiman, but a lot of people will buy it anyway.

  • Jim Kosmicki says:

    a big part of this could be Moore, too. he’s made his wishes quite clear that he’s not interested in going back to that part of his career. Given the difficulties Marvel has had when they’ve reprinted his material and made mistakes, I can see editorial wanting to just shy away from him as much as possible. Why poke the bear more? I’m not saying this is correct. History is what it is – facts are facts. Moore did write for them and did do popular runs and did revive Marvelman. But Lawyers are, as a breed, conservative and risk-averse. And Marvel is now part of a company notoriously litigious, so why wouldn’t they presume everyone else is too?

  • Jer says:

    Moore actually doesn’t seem to want Marvel or DC using his name to hawk books. If Marvel is going to go along with that they probably shouldn’t be criticized for it. OTOH, editing him out of the history of Marvelman is a bit much – factually stating that Alan Moore recreated the character in the 80s isn’t the same as using his name to sell books. If he actually isn’t mentioned in the primer itself at all, rather than just leaving him out of the ad copy, then that’s just sad on Marvel’s part and makes them look a bit assholish.

    And Tim – I don’t think it’s that they can’t understand it, it’s that they understand it perfectly well and don’t like it. They want the property to be what sells because that’s something they can own and they can spin-off and license and do all kinds of money-making things with. So they try to change the dynamic and make the focus on the character instead of on the creators. And this largely works if your target audience is something like pre-teen or even teenage kids – the traditional market for comics up until the 80s-90s. When the market shifted the dynamics changed and the companies have been slow to catch up on the comics side. Though the character over creator focus still maintains itself on the animation side of the business, where the product is still marketed at pre-teen and teenage kids.

  • Andrew Weiss says:

    I own a couple issues of the Mick Anglo Marvelman comics, and the stories are slightly retouched reprints of old Marvel Family content. I wonder how the legalities behind that will shake out (if they haven’t been seen to already) in regard to possible collected editions.

  • On MOORE, DC and WATCHMEN… here’s NEW NEWS:

    DC offered to return to him the rights of Watchmen… IF he would be willing to sign off on those aforementioned prequels and sequels.

    I haven’t read the whole article yet.
    Gotta go back to it now.


  • er… which, of course, is merely another article telling what your originally sited article stated.




  • OK. THAT comment appeared, but my earlier comment that had my faux-pas and link to the ROBOT6 article did not.
    So, now you all think I’m commenting on a previous poster and not my own.


    I’m going to go into the disintegrator with Bubastis.
    Less painful that way.


  • Mikester says:

    ~P~ – Sorry, that comment was grabbed by the spam filter…it’s there, now!

  • "O" the Humanatee! says:

    Not that it has much to do with the major issue here, but I suspect that Lee and Didio both said what you quote above because it was in a press release that bore both their names.

    (Also, pedantry alert. @Tim O’Neil: “anathema” would’ve done just fine.)

  • Mikester says:

    “O” the Humanatee! – Oh, I know, I just thought it was funny the way it was worded, and who am I to pass up the easy joke?

  • Bob says:

    Andrew, I’ve only read a handful of them, but as far as I know the Marvelman stories were not retouched Fawcett Marvel Family stories, they were original stories produced by British creators to fill in the gap after Fawcett’s line folded. Obviously the premise of the characters and elements of the design were based on the Marvel Family (and likely would have been close enough to invite a lawsuit if there was anyone back then interested in pursuing one), but the stories and artwork themselves appear to be original. Given the history of comics it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the writers and artist blatantly swiped from some Fawcett stories, but that’s another issue.

    In addition, the actual Fawcett comics appear to be in the public domain. I guess no one at Fawcett thought it was worth it to renew the copyrights after the initial 28 year term as was required for material of that period (DC didn’t buy the characters outright until after that 28 year period had lapsed).

  • If I remember the history of Marvelman article from the back of the Eclipse release correctly there was a period where Marvelman was a retouched Captain Marvel and then after Fawcett shut down but Marvelman was still going strong they switched to original stories.

  • Will Dockery says:

    “…If I remember the history of Marvelman article from the back of the Eclipse release correctly there was a period where Marvelman was a retouched Captain Marvel and then after Fawcett shut down but Marvelman was still going strong they switched to original stories.” -Just Some Guy

    Well, we’ll soon find out, since the upcoming hardback of Marvelman is starting with #25, the first appearance of MM after Captain Marvel the week before…

  • ginger says:

    This is all very curious…I’ve seen a couple of the Anglo stories and while they’re cute enough, I don’t think they stand out among the piles of never-reprinted comics of the 1950s. The reason people are so interested in this character is because of Moore’s 1980s run– both because of its influence on the genre and because the legal battles have kept this critical chunk of Moore’s work out of print for decades.

    If Marvel decides to skip the Moore years and build on Anglo’s character will they try and replicate the cartoony 1950s approach, or do as DC did with Captain Marvel and make him into yet another generic musclebound hero with existential dilemmas? We really need more of those.

  • chris kilby says:

    I’ve only had the merest glimpse of the Marvelman Primer and to say I was a disappointed is putting it mildly.

    I was a spotty wee fanboy when Warrior came out and bought it cos it was 2000AD alumni doing more “grown-up” stuff like Marvelman and V for Vendetta – coo-ool! (And not-so grown-up stuff like Axel Pressbutton – also cool!) They’re a bit yellow and dog-eared now (much like myself!) but I’ve still got ’em.

    I must be one of the few people who collected Warrior from the off, which, given its notorious deadline and distribution difficulties was an adventure in itself – and more than worthy of an enormo-budget movie adaptation! (Who would play Dez Skinn, do you think – Brad Pitt? As for Alan Moore, two names immediately spring to mind – Tyler Mane and Peter Mayhew!)

    But I digress. (I do that!) I’d never heard of Marvelman before Warrior and like anyone who grew up after the fifties (or non-Brits) it’s the Alan Moore version I always think of. Let’s face it, if it wasn’t for Moore, the character would be even more of a fading memory in the minds of a dwindling number of aging fanboys. Does anyone seriously think for one second that Marvel would be reviving a forgotten British Captain Marvel knock-off from the fifties if it wasn’t for the still-lucrative Alan Moore connection?

    (Having said that, how many people have even heard of Moore’s version? It’s still the Velvet Underground of comics though. And its influence can still be seen everywhere from The Matrix to Doctor Who – the Warpsmith-like Weeping Angels and the Johnny Bates version of The Master!)

    So why avoid all mention of Moore then? I can only assume it’s for pesky legal reasons, but not the ones everyone seems to think. I think the reason is Moore himself whose notorious dispute with Marvel goes back to Eclipse being forced to change the character’s name to “Miracleman,” even though the character’s name was copyrighted BEFORE Marvel Comics even existed (a move which had Moore wryly speculate about a hypothetical Miracle Comics one day forcing him to change MM’s name to “Mackerelman!”)

    Moore hasn’t worked for Marvel since and resisted granting permission to reprint his Captain Britain material (which in turn led to his rift with Alan Davies). So either Moore has legally blocked all mention/commercial exploitation of his name by Marvel or Disney just doesn’t want the inevitable legal hassle like you say.

    So rather than to wipe Moore from the Marvelman picture in some kind of Stalinist purge, I think Marvel are actually respecting the old curmudgeon’s wishes for once. It’s not like them.

    Good luck to Mick Anglo – I hope he’s finally making some money out of MM at last. But what I want to see is Neil Gaiman conclude his run which was so cruelly cut short, creating the biggest cliffhanger in comics since “Marveldog!” and V for Vendetta’s legendary – “Welcome home…” (Wouldn’t it have funny if the so-so film was rudely interrupted at that point as well…?)

    Last I heard, Gaiman thought he part-owned the rights to the character and was involved in a protracted legal dispute over them with Todd McFarlane. But of course, Marvelman’s tangled legal history is an epic saga in its own right!

    In an ideal world, Marvel’s long-term plan would be to mount an HBO-style TV adaptation of Alan Moore’s run – the way Watchmen shoulda been done! Hey, a fanboy can dream, can’t he…?