Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Why I won't be buying Doomsday Clock

DC Comics are about to release Doomsday Clock No.1, a 12 issue limited series which, according to the publishers, is a sequel to Watchmen.

That's right. Watchmen. The sublime 1986 groundbreaking series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (superbly coloured by John Higgins) that has worked perfectly well as a stand-alone story for 30 years. Now, DC have decided it's time to do a continuation, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank, which will co-star Superman and the other DC Universe superheroes. Gibbons and Moore were not consulted (and would no doubt have declined even if they were asked). The only true link with Watchmen is they're using the font based on Dave Gibbons' lettering.

To make something clear from the outset, both Geoff Johns and Gary Frank are top of the range creators with impressive CVs in comics. I've nothing personal against them and I've enjoyed work from both of them in the past. I'm sure Doomsday Clock will be a well produced comics series, but I won't be supporting it.

Thing is, Watchmen was created as a complete story and achieved that superbly. It's an intelligent, well structured graphic novel (or fat comic if you prefer) set on an alternate Earth where a godlike being named Dr.Manhattan changed the course of history. (Perhaps you've seen the film.The comic is far superior.) In three decades it has never needed a sequel. It certainly was never intended to tie in with the DC Universe and have guest appearances from Superman, Batman, and other members of the Justice League. Yet that's exactly what DC are doing. It's like some movie company suddenly deciding that Citizen Kane would be improved with a sequel featuring Ant and Dec.
There's been rumours that this was going to happen since DC introduced the often meandering Rebirth theme to their comics last year. Off-panel suggestions that Dr.Manhattan was pulling the strings. Apparently Doomsday Clock is about the DC Universe being broken, presumably due to Dr.Manhattan's doing, and Superman and co. trying to fix it. No doubt it'll end with another big revamp for the DC Universe. DC produce some great comics, but follow them long enough and the company tends to lurch from one reboot to another, from Crisis, to Zero Hour, to Rebirth. Wait a few years and there'll be another.

The metaphor of Superman vs Dr.Manhattan is that Watchmen was one of the comics responsible for superhero comics becoming darker and grittier, and it's time to put things right. It's a very flawed excuse, because Watchmen was never designed to be a template for the DCU to "go dark". It's the fault of editors and creators who followed who chose that path with their characters. Watchmen can't be blamed for the appalling Identity Crisis storyline for example, where goofy supervillain Doctor Light became a rapist. 

Okay, the concept of Superman fighting Dr.Manhattan is something that will no doubt have many of the "who's the strongest" infatuated fanboys drooling with delight, but even if you think it sounds like a good idea, consider the moral aspect. As I understand it, when Watchmen was created, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons had a contract that said that the rights of the book would revert to them when it went out of print. Only problem was, DC made sure it never went out of print. Now, this latest fiasco, merging Watchmen characters into the DC Universe, ensures they're DC property indefinitely.

I don't want to support tactics like that, and I won't be buying Doomsday Clock on principle. The Watchmen creators aren't interested in it (Dave Gibbons has said "I won't be reading it") and I stand with them. I knew Alan and Dave very well back in the days when they were working on Watchmen and it was always a pleasure to hear of their passion for the comic and how they were structuring it. They were good, optimistic times for comics and creator's rights. I'm sickened by this "sequel" and will be steering well clear of it. 

Obviously I won't be chastising anyone who does buy it, and I won't be falling out with anyone over it, but I wanted to put my own thoughts out there. Agree or disagree; it's up to you.

If you haven't read Watchmen, buy that instead. No sequels necessary.

34 comments:

Steven Irizarry said...

They signed a contract that was reasonable and realistic...watchmen was in no way expected to be the iconic DC story it ended up being and no comic before then ever been in print for 30 years straight because of how popular it is.

I don't care what you think or even your opinion...but let's not pretend for a damn second that watchmen is some bastion of originality(it isn't, it gave up the right the second it used charleston characters).

Anonymous said...

I've so little interest in DC these days that this may well have passed me by entirely. How very sad. The thing is, I'm not sure exactly who this title is supposed to appeal to. Like you, I enjoyed Watchmen over 30 years ago and return to it as a standalone work that needed no continuation or crossover. It's enduring impact has meant that there's no need to use a series to signpost this classic and, from your item, it seems that the purpose is to undo not enhance it in some way. It's hard to imagine that the pulling power of (i) a Watchmen "sequel" or (ii) the creators (no offence) or (iii) yet another "game changing" maxi-series will generate anything more than modest sales in any case. All that and displaying complete contempt for Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons & John Higgins (again). Well done, DC. Easier for me to say, I appreciate, but I won't be buying it either.

Lew Stringer said...

I think you're right, Anon. I suppose it's aimed at the fanboys who like the big Crisis-type DC event stories, but there's been so many resets like that I would think most fans are jaded about it by now. Also, I suppose there'll always be people who want more (as opposed to wanting Moore) and can never be satisfied with a complete work.

Steven, you cared enough about my opinion to comment, so thanks for that. I presume you mean the Charlton characters and your device auto-corrected it to charleston, so let's address that. Basically, Watchmen are not the Charlton characters are they? Ys, Alan initially came up with a plot that would use Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, etc, but DC rejected it. Dave then came on board and Alan and Dave reworked it into an original work called Watchmen, with new characters.

The main beef though is about the contract, and how DC got around it. This website explains it better than me:
http://comicsbulletin.com/case-doomsday-clock-part-one-history/

I find it a bit disconcerting that fans will so easily support big business over the creators, but that's on their conscience.

@MLPasterisk said...

DC did a "Before Watchmen" prequel a few years back.

Not my cup of tea but I guess there's a market for it.

Lew Stringer said...

There's a market for all kinds of stuff, but it doesn't mean DC should be publishing it. Yeah, I'd forgotten about the very-forgettable 'Before Watchmen' comics. I didn't buy those either.

Manic Man said...

can't see the reason for the fuss.. Watchman wasn't original the first time.. might be a good example or even the best example of it, but wasn't original. light parody of characters he was refused permission (for good reasons).. I'm just surprised at how good a deal he was able to get with DC back then.. amazing deals... others hard to fight hard to get half as good..

that said, DC totally trashed all Charlton characters they owned.. and others.. Look at the rubbish they did with Captain Marvel.. the Beck version was good.. then they have to do this bad stuff making him even MORE like Superman, but then doing rubbish like bringing back one-shot character Black Adam... sigh.. but that's what companies (and even solo creators) do.. I have seen some stuff by the original creators that make me want to say "No! Stop! Leave it on a high not on such a death"..


oh well, each to there own.

Lew Stringer said...

Hardly a light parody, Ryan. Besides, it's not just about the characters, but the way Alan and Dave structured the story. The main thing though is that DC gave them what appeared to be a great contract, then it turned out it wasn't. Sadly, some people seem to be blaming Alan and Dave for that, not the giant corporation that is DC/Warners. I think it's a shame that people are so eager to stand by the company and not the creators.

Just call me Dan said...

I read DClock 1 at work. Let's just say Geoff Jones is no Alan Moore. Not by a long chalk. It's actually embarrassing.

Craig Michael Patrick said...

Interesting article, Lew. You know, I often read reviews or thought pieces about The Watchmen and it seems as though nearly everyone locks into the tone of the book, the overwhelming gravity and weight of this impending doom that lurks on just the next page. This is not what has attracted me to The Watchmen. Not at all.

This isn't to discount that. Surely, the bleak overtones act as a form of warning tag for 'adult content', but for me, that didn't make The Watchmen worthwhile or even intelligent writing. That was tone.

What made The Watchmen compelling for me was the structure — a snowflake-like fractal story structure that that thoroughly explored not only tone, but pacing and form and the very architecture by which a story is composed. Then I discovered that Moore was quite taken with the writings of Thomas Pynchon and his particular, peculiar tastes and things clicked into place for me as Moore not only reflects Pynchon’s writings but extends and reconfigures that approach into something unique and purposeful — writing to explore a topic, thoroughly, concisely.

I can understand why DC is electing to tell this story: part of it, I suspect, is wrestling with the after-effects of Moore’s clearly bad mood in the 80's which has resonated through the industry for decades now (and from my perspective for all the wrong reasons). For a company based on character, its editorial direction has exhibited a remarkable lack of it over the past three decades, resting squarely in the shadow of The Watchmen. The other part, obviously, is money. I cannot fault DC for that, honestly. As sure as eggs is 'eggs', a corporate entity is going to try to squeeze the lemon dry. This is problematic when the corporation’s bread and butter product is a creative field, though. So, Before Watchmen. So, Doomsday Clock. So it goes.

So to Steven's point above, yes. Yes it is a bastion of originality, but not because of character. It's originality stems from the architecture of which it's composed. It really is a beautiful piece of work. That said, it’s strange that we're not having this conversation about Swamp Thing.

(Disclaimer: as brilliant as The Watchmen is, I believe From Hell is far more sophisticated in its dichotomy of beauty juxtaposed with ugliness)

Again, thanks for writing this and offering me a platform to properly galvanize my thoughts on this messy business. Well done, sir. Well done.

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Craig. You're right about corporations squeezing it dry, but there did seem to be some optimism in 1986 that things were improving. Contracts in comics were going to be like they are in books. Then it turned out not to be the case, in this instance anyway. One can understand why it left Alan in a bad mood, although too many websites paint him like that all the time and it's wrong. When I knew him he was always cheerful and funny.

Lew Stringer said...

Dan, why does that not surprise me? Sigh.

Chris B said...

Interesting post Lew, and thanks also for the link to the Comics Bulliten piece which I found a fascinating read. I’ve never read Watchmen – been on my “to read list” for a long time but just never gotten around to it – but I find this whole situation utterly bizzare. After what was a muted – or so I thought – reaction to the prequels I must admit that I gave a laugh of disbelief when a DC reading friend of mine revealed this latest money making wheeze. It’s probably most one of the cynical things I’ve read in the comics world in recent years and my overarching thought is, do fans actually think this is a good idea? Issues with the creators slightly to one side for a moment, it seems laughable to me that this even seems like a good fit for any of the characters involved, be it the DC regulars or the Watchmen “universe”. So what it seems like it boils down to is a cynical cash grab rather than an authentic story that needs to be told; to me if it seems like if a story evolves organically, even if told by someone other than the original creator, fans can be willing to give it a pass (which wouldn’t be much comfort for the creators of course). This one doesn’t seem like that. Of course, I very rarely read DC and have never read the original Watchmen so could be barking up the total wrong tree

However I wouldn’t want to disregard your – well argued – concerns for those involved in the original creative process either Lew. It’s an interesting ethical discussion and even if Doomsday Clock bombs, I doubt this is the last original Watchmen content produced by DC without the involvement of Moore and Gibbons

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, it sets a precedent now and it wouldn't surprise me if we had a Rorschach comic as a follow up, teaming him with Batman. The whole thing smacks of a) desperation, and b) spite against the original creators.

I'd call it a cheap knock-off, but buying the whole series will cost around £50. Far more, for those who buy all the variant covers as well.

Anonymous said...

Why is this even on on blog about British comics?

Gavin Burrows said...

I find very strange comic fans' habit of reducing everything to the characters. Some fans seem to buy anything if it has their favourite character in it. I've even heard people complain volubly about the poor quality of some product, but phrased as though they don't have any choice but to buy the thing. Perhaps it started for a good reason, such as Kirby and Dikto churning out great characters one after another without getting their full recognition. But it's past any purpose now.

I agree with Craig Michael Patrick, what makes 'Watchmen' is the structure. Characters may be variants of old Charlton characters, but that's trivial. I could write a book with the characters from 'War and Peace' in it, but that wouldn't make me Tolstoy.

paul Mcscotty said...

I feel a bit (only a wee bit) sorry for DC here the contract stated (if I am correct) that the work would revert to Moore and Gibbons when it went out of print, but they created a very succesful book (which they got paid for) the fact it has remained in print is surely just good business sense it seesdm to be a steady seller for DC, fair enough if the contract said once the intial print run was sold the guys got the rightS back. Saying that I also won't buy this new book as DC output jsut bores ne nowadays. Strangely whilst I really like Alan Moores writing I am not a fan of Watchmen (Ihave the comics) - do you know if / when Alan get the rights back if he planned to do anything with it? if not is there an issue (I only mean that as a question not a "in your face" comment).

Lew Stringer said...

Good point, Gavin. I think fans are hooked on the continuity through years of Marvel influence. It's like people who complain that soaps aren't as good as they were, (due to changes in writers) but won't stop watching because they want to see "what happens next". As DC are publishing this, it's considered "canon", but I think most of us know it's not really. As far as I'm concerned, Doomsday Clock is just one of those Imaginary Stories that DC were fond of 50 years ago.

Going back to the cost of this Damned Comic, I've just realized that all the Rebirth storylines tie into it as well, some very closely (like 'The Button' and 'Oz'). So the cost of getting the full story is outrageous! Definitely Commercial, Devious Con.

Martin Little said...

Lots of divided opinion on this one, and it does (to me at least) seem to be a bit of a cash grab by DC trying to exploit the popularity of a property that's (pretty much) been idle for them (because why mess with a good thing?). But the one thing I can't get out of my mind is just how a Citizen Kane sequel with Ant and Dec would play out :)

Search Engine Evader said...

Agree entirely with your article, Lew. Though I'm pretty sure DC made it known that Watchmen would never go out of print almost as soon as it was published.

PhilEdBoyce said...

I’m planning on collecting the classic Death’s Head comic next year, but found out the two sequel series weren’t by creators Simon Furman and Geoff Senior, who both said they weren’t consulted and that they’re not canon. Marvel UK will have thought differently but I’ll not be getting them. Yes, sometimes sequels can be written by someone other than the original and they can be good (across various media I mean) but this whole thing is a shitty move by DC from the 80s to the present day. Show respect at least. Reminds me of Rebellion not consulting with Pat Mills on the Scream/Misty special, and it suffered as a result I think.

James Spiring said...

Lew, you're right unfortunately, Doomsday Clock is actually the culmination of over two years of stories, especially for Flash (it and Rebirth as a whole retcons Flashpoint by changing the cause of the New 52 reboot), Superman (Oz), and Batman (with what happened to Tim Drake). And it's one issue a month for a year, by which time the rest of the line (which after next week will no longer be branded as Rebirth) should catch up. So it sounds like even if people do want to read it, they'd get a better experience in trade format, after it's over.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Dave Gibbons do the alternative lenticular cover for Doomsday Clock 1 ???? Seems odd given his comments......

Lew Stringer said...

No he didn't, Anon. DC used an old piece of Dave's art and modified it.

James, that sounds very over-complicated but typical DC. They always want everything to connect. I think people are getting jaded by such commercialism and that's why some have turned to other comics companies.

That's an interesting point about Death's Head, Phil. If Simon and Geoff say those stories aren't canon, then they're not, as far as I'm concerned. It's a shame Marvel didn't return the rights to them years ago, like they did for me with Combat Colin, but Marvel had plans for Death's Head.

Lew Stringer said...

Paul, sorry I forgot to reply to you. From what I gather, Alan isn't interested in getting the rights back now as he feels the situation over the years has tainted it. That still doesn't justify Doomsday Clock though, in my opinion. Watchmen hasn't needed a sequel in 30 years and still doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Say what you like but the reviews of Doomsday Clock have been overwhelmingly positive!!

Lew Stringer said...

Of course they have. People who detest the idea haven't bought it so they're not reviewing it!

Anonymous said...

Seems to me to be indicative that DC (like most comic publishers) continue to struggle to innovate. They've mined Jack Kirby's 4th World and Kamandi for years and now they've moved on to the next fan favourite.


Lew Stringer said...

Yep, although at least Kirby's Fourth World was always set in the DCU.

Colin Jones said...

I want to see a Citizen Kane sequel featuring Ant & Dec!

Lew Stringer said...

You would! :)

James Golbey said...

Very late here. Given that Watchman was created as how comic characters would be in reality and that worldview, much like Frank Miller's, was unique to Moore, to keep rehashing it regardless of the quality of the work is damaging to the original. I read the original and wasn't as blown away as most but I do understand that the creators deserve better than to see it continually vomited up when DC fancy.

milton 75 said...

Hold on - what Classic Death's Head comic next year? What's this? Please tell me there's something DH related coming out!

Lew Stringer said...

I think Phil was talking about collecting back issues, milton.

milton 75 said...

Dang! Excitement exploded, then was dashed.

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