James Bacon caught up with Robert Curley, of Sub City comics, to find out what the retailers perspective of Before Watchmen was like.
First and foremost – you are a retailer but you are also a reader and publisher, so I expect you have some interesting thoughts.
As a fan, for me Watchmen is one of dozens of good graphic novels but to suggest it’s the best one ever written is purely a matter of taste. Personally I would place a lot of other books ahead of it including Alan Moore’s own V For Vendetta. My own personal favourite is Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come but again that’s just my own taste. From the publisher perspective I can understand why DC are bringing out new books using these characters. You have to remember that it was the Watchmen movie that put it on the New York times best seller list and made it relevant for a new generation. I think the prequels will do the same thing. As far as I understand it DC own the rights to those characters so it’s up to them to decide how to pursue their future. I don’t know the exact details of the contract Alan signed with DC but I can only presume that it was done in good faith and with a sound mind.
What do you think of the news about the watchmen prequels?
I’m looking forward to them. I think that the nature of superheroes (and that’s what Watchmen are at the end of the day) is to evolve, as long as the stories are well executed. Oddly enough it’s projects like this and the movie that bring the book to a wider audience. I’ve asked a lot of customers their opinion on it and most are looking forward to it, some are not happy about it and others have no feelings on it because it doesn’t interest them.
Personally, I enjoyed the original book and from a fan point of view, I’m happy to see the universe expanded upon. I know there are some people who are outraged at the thought of Before Watchmen and that’s their right but for me, I don’t feel that close to the work to be so emotionally attached to it and remember I’m talking about the artistic side here not the legal. As far as the legal side stands I wasn’t in the room when the contracts were signed so I’m not in a position to comment on them. Remember also two of the people involved in the original book are working on the prequels and Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons has given his blessing on the project saying …
“I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire.”
I would imagine that outside of Alan Moore himself Dave Gibbons opinion on the matter is also to be respected.
How do you think your customers will react?
As I mentioned I have been asking people their opinion on this and 9 out of 10 people are excited about it. You also have to remember that a lot of people reading comics today weren’t around 30 odd years ago so they didn’t experience the initial impact of Watchmen. The world of comics has moved on since then and there have been plenty of great books from numerous writers and artists so the competition Watchmen faces today is a lot steeper than when it was first published. Again I think to suggest that nothing comes near it in terms of quality is wrong.
What do you think of the line up?
Overall I’m happy with the line up. Darwyn Cooke, J.G. Jones, Joe and Andy Kubert, Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo and J Michael Straczynsky have all more than earned their stripes in this industry.
As a creator of comics – what qualms do you have over the Ownership or ethics of the comics release?
I self publish under Atomic Diner so I have creative control. That gives me a lot of freedom but it also means that I’m limited in what I can do to reach people and three decades ago people like Alan were even more limited so they relied on companies like DC to get their work out there and to do that I guess they had to swallow a bitter pill. If DC or any other major company were to approach me with an offer for my characters I would have to think long and hard on whatever offer was on the table but I would only sign on the dotted line if I was happy with the end result.
Alan Moore owns Watchmen in the sense that he created them and DC can never take that away from him and in fairness I don’t think they want to take it away. The book clearly acknowledges him as their creator. Unfortunately he did sign them over to DC and that has had its backlash but who knows, if he had decided against it would we even be aware of the book or would it just exist as a five hundred limited print run in a few people’s collections?
It has been pointed out that Alan has used other people’s characters for his own stories, mainly with League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lost Girls, and that there is no real difference in other creators reinterpreting his own work. I would tend to agree with this myself. I imagine that there are lot of people who hold the characters in Lost Girls very close to their hearts and were very unhappy with how Alan reinterpreted them.
How do you think this will effect the view people have of the original?
I don’t think it will affect it unless you want it to and that’s the great thing about fiction, it’s not real so you don’t have to consume it all. The original stands on its own as a piece of art and I don’t think that will change.
How do you think it will affect sales?
I think Before Watchmen will be the biggest selling series of 2012. Maybe of the last decade and if I’m right that will tell you where people stand on the issues involved. If any individual feels in their heart that this is wrong, the best protest they can make is not to buy the books. There is no better way to say no. I also think it might bring the more traditional comic readers around to buying the original.
Any other thoughts?
On a similar point I, like many people, found Frank Miller’s Holy Terror to be offensive and insightful to hatred so I declined to order any of those books.
I know Alan Moore has his opinions on Miller’s work also, and they are quite similar to mine and any interview I have read with him he comes across as a well presented and thoughtful person and I have every respect for him and his work but that does not mean I’m not entitled to my own opinion on the subject.
I am grateful to Rob for this insight, his Atomic Diner Press, http://www.atomicdiner.com/ has been receiving a lot of positive reviews of late, and I think I would encourage Comic Buzz regulars to check out three titles in particular, Rosin Dubh, League of Volunteers and Jennifer Wilde.