Heidi Macdonald has a must-read piece about Before Watchmen, comic culture and creator freedom up:
So yeah, there was a different mood all that time back when WATCHMEN was created. Vertigo and Image and the Legends line at Dark Horse, and the Bravura (!) line at Malibu and Tundra and many other things—some that failed horribly, some that made it—were all testament to the idea that by giving creators some freedom and equity and treating them like stars you would make great comics and sell lots of them. Marvel was out of it at that point due to the horrible Perelman years. And that led to the distributor wars, and the implosion and the crash and since then every penny has been counted. And storing up your IP and squeezing it for every drop of revenue and then squeezing it some more is the modus operandi for most publishers. Creators are useful for enlivening that IP and relaunching it, and crossing it over and sitting in retreats and figuring out how to eventize it. You couldn’t do any of that without creators, in fact. But luckily for the publishers, there are editors to make sure the creators color inside the lines and stay on target and keep that legacy IP flowing. And a long line of eager new replacement creators who want to be given the chance to go to that retreat. And retailers who know that their customers will only order something they know, and readers going into stores who only want to relive their nostalgia, and before you know it, an entire system based on retreading old ideas is in place.
And before you know it, you have a pre-sold hit like BEFORE WATCHMEN.
And that’s where we are today.
I’ve spoken to quite a few of the people working on the BEFORE WATCHMEN books. And they are all proud of their work. I’m not going to gainsay their pride. And I’m not going to call them sellouts or other names. I’ve said a few things here and elsewhere but I will no longer question their motives. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
And also…can you imagine what the message boards are going to be like when these books come out, no matter how well made they are? That’s going to be punishment enough.
So much more at the link. Go read.
(Similarly a must-read: The comments thread for an earlier post on the subject, in which Marc-Oliver Frisch makes the important observation that may be getting ignored in a lot of discussion about everything surrounding BW: “BEFORE WATCHMEN is DC selling off its crown jewels, basically. They’re going to make a lot of money, but they’re also watering down the most successful stand-alone book in their stable, while simultaneously reminding creators to never, ever give them anything of real value. Will the sales they get out of this be worth the longer-term damage? I seriously doubt it.” Watchmen‘s strength for a lot of people was that it wasn’t a multi-book franchise. Now it is. The question is whether the greater public will accept that change, whether it’ll become another Scarlett, and what damage will be done to Watchmen as a result. Because, let’s face it: No matter how good the Before Watchmen books are, this isn’t going to make people go “Hey, that Watchmen book is so much better than I ever realized!”)