‘Watchmen’ sales soar, what does Alan Moore think?

Aug. 15, 2008 | 12:05 a.m.

Rohrshach_2 Down at Comic-Con International, Paul Levitz told us about a major new print run for the "Watchmen" graphic novel and I see in a short item in the New York Times that it’s still going gangbusters:

The film trailer for “Watchmen” is proving to be a considerable boost to sales of the graphic novel the movie is based on. “As far as we can tell from our conversations with the book industry people, there has never been a trailer that did this,” said Paul Levitz, the president and publisher of DC Comics, which has printed 900,000 additional paperback copies of the novel since the trailer began running in mid-July. The book, about a conspiracy to discredit and murder a group of superheroes, was written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, and has been on the best-seller lists of Amazon.com, USA Today and The Washington Post. Mr. Levitz said “Watchmen” would have a print run of more than a million copies this year. Last year it sold about 100,000.

Zack Snyder says he will be happy if his movie is a "three-hour advertisement" for the graphic novel, and after visiting his Vancouver set (and seeing the same movie trailer that you’ve certainly seen by now) there’s no doubt in my mind that the "300" director is intent on remaining absolutely faithful to the story that Moore wrote (and Dave Gibbons drew) more than 20 years ago.

That has me wondering if Moore, who loathes Hollywood types after watching their mistreatment of his printed darlings, will eventually embrace this new project? It’s going to be difficult to reel the gifted eccentric back in; Moore swore off Hollywood years ago. 


Moore is often called a recluse and occasionally described as a misanthrope (I’m not sure either is deserved) but he most definitely is an iconoclast and, um, pretty colorful. Check out this line from his bio on Wikipedia: "He is a vegetarian, an anarchist, a practicing magician and occultist, and he worships a Roman snake-deity named Glycon." Ah, another one of those guys.

Anyway, Moore’s comics career is flat-out genius. But he was rightly miffed by the clumsy Hollywood adaptation of his sublime "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and offended by the behind-the-scenes industry dance involved in "V for Vendetta." He demanded his name be left off the screen on both. UPDATE: And, I should have pointed out here, he was deeply upset about the business dealings and the way DC Comics handled his creations, which they owned. That and other disputes with DC eventually led him to renounce the company and swear never to work with them again. Thanks to the readers who pointed out that I left out a good chunk of the chronology.

"Watchmen" would seem to be the film that could turn all of this around. But the early word is that the strident Moore is not willing to walk into any dark theater where his characters will be projected by others. Entertainment Weekly recently had a very smartly done Q&A with Moore and the interviewer, Nisha Gopalan, put forth the idea that Snyder seems like an ideal director to make "Watchmen" and make it right. Moore wasn’t buying it.

"He may very well be, but the thing is that he’s also the person who made ‘300.’ I’ve not seen any recent comic book films, but I didn’t particularly like the book ‘300.’ I had a lot of problems with it, and everything I heard or saw about the film tended to increase [those problems] rather than reduce them: [That] it was racist, it was homophobic, and above all it was sublimely stupid. I know that that’s not what people going in to see a film like 300 are thinking about but…I wasn’t impressed with that…. I talked to [director] Terry Gilliam in the ’80s, and he asked me how I would make ‘Watchmen’ into a film. I said, ”Well actually, Terry, if anybody asked me, I would have said, ‘I wouldn’t.’ ” And I think that Terry [who aborted his attempted adaptation of the book] eventually came to agree with me. There are things that we did with ‘Watchmen’ that could only work in a comic, and were indeed designed to show off things that other media can’t."

The marketing people for Snyder’s movie have picked up Moore’s old catchphrase, "Who watches the Watchmen?" Alan Moore, apparently, is not willing to be the answer to that question.

–Geoff Boucher

Artwork from "Watchmen" by artist Dave Giboons, courtesy of DC Comics.

Image from the upcoming film "Watchmen" courtesy of Warner Bros.

More in: Uncategorized, Alan Moore, Watchmen


6 Responses to ‘Watchmen’ sales soar, what does Alan Moore think?

  1. Pasnat54 says:

    I'd use four words to describe Moore: 1) Genius. 2) Curmudgeonly beyond belief.
    He's got a right to gripe about the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen because it was messed up beyond all recognition.
    But V for Vendetta was a great movie. It veered from the graphic novel, but instead of cheapening the work, it gave us another perspective; it made me think, "Yeah, that's another perfectly valid way for it to end. I wonder if Moore wishes he'd thought of that?"
    My guess is that Moore's complaint has more to do with artistic temperament than anything else. He's intelligent enough to know that when you sell your work to Hollywood, you've made a pact with the devil. And let's be honest; comics and movies are two different media, each with its own strong points, and each filled with people who understand how best to take advantage of their media's inherent strengths.
    I don't think Moore's temperament will ever allow him to accept that, but I'll be waiting for the movie.

  2. Duncan Cross says:

    I bet most every article that mentions the Watchmen movie is going to make a "Who watches the…" joke. Also, and this is complete pedantry, but Alan Moore can't take credit for that catchphrase – it's almost 2000 years older than him.
    I would recommend people seek out Alan Moore's interview with Stewart Lee. It's available on YouTube (audio only). It's a couple of years ago out of date now (before V For Vendetta was released) but is still very good.
    Also, Pasnat – I liked the V For Vendetta movie but it did strip out anything close to properly advocating an Anarchist society, which is most of V's dialogue with Evey in the book. I don't mind endings getting changed and things getting updated to be more relevant today, but stripping out almost any mention of the ideology that drove the original story is not just adapting it for a movie but changing what it is at a fundmental level (for the record, I have no anarchist leanings at all, that's not the point).

  3. Andy Shaw says:

    I believe that Moore's biggest gripe with the whole filming of his properties is based on ownership and that he believes he was tricked out of ever owning the copyright for titles like Watchmen and V for Vendetta by DC Comics. The company is alleged to have promised that, when the books went out of print, the copyright would revert to him and his artist colleagues. Although it seems obvious now that the books would still be in print 20 years later, and would never go out of print, this was something that had never happened at the time. I think Moore believes that DC retaining all the rights in this situation went against the spirit of the agreement and, with absolutely no control over the outcome, didn't want to see his name attached to any Hollywood project that came out of it. I am almost certainly over-simplifying things here but I think to argue that this makes him curmudgeonly is grossly unfair.

  4. Joseph Bazalgate says:

    I wish that all the people who wave their opinions around in comments sections like this would actually have a vague grasp of the facts of the matter first. Moore's position with these films has nothing to do with artistic temprement. Nor did he sell the rights for Watchmen or V to the studios. DC comics own all of the rights and they sold the rights. Moore considers that those works were stolen from him by DC comics. Whether you agree with him or not is neither here nor there. Dismissing his objections as 'artistic temprement' is woefully ill informed.
    Moore's objections are not solely artistic, they are moral objections too.
    As for the article itself its tone is so biased and unjournalistic that it has no value whatsoever. If this embrasingly leading article (if you can call one person's opinion an article) is indicative of the standard of journalism practised by the LA Times then i shall remeber to give it a wide birth in future.
    The article conveys little or no information and really is about nothing more than the author's opinion of Alan Moore, which is uninformed and biased.

  5. Keith says:

    Moore knew full well what he was signing when he originally made those deals with DC. So it has nothing to do with 'moral rights' (and if you are suggesting that, then Moore signed them away, frankly) – are you trying to tell us that Moore is so stupid and naive that he didn't realise, after already being in the comics industry for some time, that he wasn't at all aware of what the legal standing would be when he signed on the dotted line (and took the cheque). He seems to be moaning retrospectively about HIS own mistakes. Boo hoo Alan! Did they take your baby and not do it right? So why don't you actually do something about it and f'in get involved you numpty*, and stop crying like a petulant child (or worse throwing public tantrums and making yourself look like a proper tit).
    And yes, I am fully informed about why he doesn't get involved (see public tantrum and tit comment).
    Most importantly, he's just a frickin' author! A very good and smart one, don't get me wrong, but he's also, well, a bit weird… So why on Earth do some people hang on his every word and hold so much store in his opinion? I don't give a crap what he thinks of movies – he doesn't like them and that informs his opinion far more than the actual merit of what the film may actually be like. On the other hand, I do like movies, so I regard his views as completely uninformed and irrelevant when it comes to film (especially after reading the woeful Fashion Beast).
    If he actually stopped being so pathetically childish for five minutes and actually sounded reasonable (like, for example, not 'passing judgement' until he's actually seen the thing he's criticising), then he might be worth listening to again.

  6. Biob says:

    hmmm. sorry i came here.

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