When Dave Gibbons phoned me up, he assured me that these [Watchmen] prequels and sequels would be handled by ‘the industry's top-flight talents'. Now, I don't think that the contemporary industry actually has a ‘top-flight' of talent. I don't think it's even got a middle-flight or a bottom-flight of talent…
At the end of the day, if they haven't got any properties that are valuable enough, but they have got these ‘top-flight industry creators' that are ready to produce these prequels and sequels to Watchmen, well this is probably a radical idea, but could they not get one of the ‘top-flight industry creators' to come up with an idea of their own? Why are DC Comics trying to exploit a comic book that I wrote 25 years ago if they have got anything? Sure they ought to have had an equivalent idea since? I could ask about why Marvel Comics are churning out or planning to bring out my ancient Marvelman stories, which are even older, if they had a viable idea of their own in the quarter-century since I wrote those works. I mean, surely that would be a much easier solution than all of this clandestine stuff? Just simply get some of your top-flight talent to put out a book that the wider public outside of the comics field find as interesting or as appealing as the stuff that I wrote 25 years ago. It shouldn't be too big an ask, should it? I wouldn't have thought so. And it would solve an awful lot of problems. They must have one creator, surely, in the entire American industry that could do equivalent work to something I did 25 years ago. It would be insulting to think that there weren't.
Aaron responded, in part, by saying:
Apparently it's my fault, as a modern-day comic creator, that poor Alan Moore continues to be so bedeviled by Marvel and DC. If I just didn't suck so bad, along with all my peers, then comic book companies wouldn't have to keep making Moore so miserable.
As a fan, I'd just rather not support someone who so blatantly insults me and my friends.
I know comics has always had and will always have its share of bitter old men. And usually those guys have every right to be bitter as the industry has a long track record of fucking over creators. But I've never had one of them actually blame me for their problems before.
Jason Aaron is ticked off with Alan Moore, and I understand where he's coming from. He acknowledges having been a huge Moore fan up until these comments, and a lot of us know from experience that what your idols say carries a lot more impact than, let's say, something coming from some random Internet denizen. To the point where maybe sometimes we read more into their comments than is intended.
Aaron sums up Moore's comments as blaming the current generation of comics creators for his troubles with DC and Marvel, but I think he's being somewhat facetious there. Alan's anger is pretty clearly directed towards the companies who he feels have disregarded his rights as creator but have continued to exploit his work for profit for decades. In the process, that anger splashes over and manages to make some rude insinuations about people who aren't involved. But I don't think anyone really believes that Moore is saying "All these troubles I've had with the companies over the years are the fault of today's creators."
Which brings us to Aaron's real complaint, that Moore is being insulting towards today's creators. Well, at the very least, he's being dismissive and a bit rude. He's trying to make a point that the companies should stop feeding off of his old work and start relying on new creations, and does so in the form of a challenge with a harsh and sarcastic tone. It's the equivalent of trash talk on the basketball court ; "You ain't got nothing!" I agree that it isn't entirely fair to make comments that appear to dismiss an entire generation, just because you're angry at their employers. But sometimes that kind of confrontational language is needed to get your point across. If he'd simply said "I wish they would stop exploiting my work and rely on new stuff," we wouldn't be discussing his comments at all, would we? And this is an important discussion to have.
So, to address Moore's central question, why CAN'T the companies turn out something today that achieves the success and acclaim of Watchmen? Vertigo author G. Willow Wilson says, "We may indeed all suck, but we’re also writing in a much more cynical, conservative, and oh yeah BROKE era. If Alan Moore started writing today, I’m doubtful he could have achieved the same prominence. Esp with his politics. Market is gun-shy." I think that's strikes at the heart of it; Watchmen was as much a product of its era as it was of its creators. There might BE the next Watchmen out there, but because of the distribution system and long-term strategic errors on the part of the publishers, it would have a much harder time of garnering the attention that Watchmen did. I suspect that Moore is aware of these subtleties, but again, he's being somewhat glib and sarcastic in an effort to get his point across. Is there more the publishers could be doing to promote new material instead of relying on the old? Yes, but it would take someone in charge with a combination of vision and resources to do that, and it seems most publishers have one or the other these days, but not both.
Is Alan Moore bitter, as Aaron suggests? That's hard to argue with. He's been through a lot with these companies, too much to recap here. He's definitely angry and probably not a little disgusted with what he sees as morally and creatively bankrupt behavior on the part of those companies. Yet I think bitterness implies some sort of long-term preoccupation with a subject, and we can't know that; for all we know, he passes his days happily in Northampton, and doesn't think about Marvel or DC until some comics journalist asks him for an interview.
Aaron's conclusion is that he won't support Moore's work anymore, because of what he sees as insults directed towards him and his friends. That's certainly his prerogative, as it is the right of every consumer. Yet I think if I were Aaron, I wouldn't take it so personally; Moore is up front about not reading current comics, so he can't possibly be passing judgement on them. At worst, they're innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire of the justifiable anger of someone who's contributed more to the medium than most alive today. I think some angry comments can and should be forgiven.
I think though, more unfortunate than Aaron or other creators not supporting Moore's work, is the thought that in the midst of his anger at DC and Marvel, Moore has been so turned off comics that he really isn't aware if there is anything truly good out there. I like Andy Diggle's suggestion to send him some of today's best indie comics, but I'd expand upon that.
Those of us currently reading know there ARE still great comics being made today (both indie and mainstream) and who wouldn't love to say they were able to introduce one of the masters of the medium to a great new comic? What if we could send Alan some of our favorites, and maybe even get his thoughts on them? I know I for one would love to hear what Alan Moore actually thinks of current comics. Because I don't think we yet have.