I've been gathering my thoughts on BEFORE WATCHMEN since it was announced, and have read many great right-headed (and cringed through many wrong-headed) pieces written on the matter over this last week. A few people have sought out my opinion on the matter, probably because they remember the frequency I commented scathingly on the subject of the atrocious movie adaptation. This announcement has had something of the inevitable about it, it has seemed to lurk in the ether waiting to materialise since 2007, when I ran this blog entry. It was prompted by the appearance of this piece by Art Adams (a cover for the defunct trade rag WIZARD, if memory serves). As I said back then, in the comments section alongside the entry: "It's heresy, but it's also hilarious: it's hilaresy!".
Now, those of you who are familiar with the Northern Irish character know that we have the darkest of humours, probably because all of us born before 1994 have full-blown PTSD. We make black jokes about bad news, and for us there is no such thing as "too soon?". Which is why, as soon as this news leaked out, slid out like the incontinence of a octogenarian who hasn't had a decent idea since 1986, I felt inclined to just laugh. But to laugh it off is probably too apathetic, distancing myself from the bomb-blast, immunising myself from accusations otherwise that I'm taking it too seriously, that's its justafakkingcomicforfakksake. Instead the debate that has arose has been inspiring. Every time, every opportunity comic readers have to witness a hard light being shone on the business ethics of the industry they patronise, is a good thing. Every time I write about work for hire, I drop in the phrase "that gangster shit", hoping it'll catch on. It never does. In the case of WATCHMEN, it isn't even the usual problems of work for hire that is to blame, it is a new set of problems born of the comics boom of the mid-80s: when is creator-owned not creator-owned after all? Did Dez Skinn die in vain?
One thing made clear reading the day-long explosion of opinion on the matter in my Twitter feed was this is a matter for comic fans, for comic readers, not the comic professionals: the smartest ones realised they were compromised within the argument, that they didn't have a leg on which to stand and join in with the pontificatin'. Of course, the lines are horribly blurred. The audience for Anglophone comics isn't huge, and therefore a fair sized chunk of the readership are creators. Also, comics professionals are invariably the most passionate of fans, and seemingly every comics fan would give their eye-teeth to become a comics professional, every one of them working on a webcomic they want to link you to, or in possession of a pitch for that Dr Strange comic that's really going to work this time. One of the reasons this farrago is going ahead is because DC reckons it's easy to get away with it, because we're all complicit now. Well sod that, Dan. You haven't got my fingerprints on this gun. Leave me out of it.
There's probably an essay to be written on comics becoming just another commodity being squeezed out by corporations that don't give a shit; that the comics crowd are kidding themselves when they blather on about the medium they love being the last bastion for free-wheeling creativity; that buying a Marvel or DC comic is essentially as soul-destroying a gesture of surrender to the forces of globalisation as buying a Big Mac or a Starbucks coffee or downloading the latest single by the winner of last year's THE X-FACTOR. This won't be it. I'm too busy brewing my own beer.