AVC: How did you brace yourself for the controversy that would come with the Before Watchmen announcement?
DC: I didn’t, really. I knew there would be a certain amount of it. In all honesty, I didn’t expect, “Poor Alan Moore.” I just didn’t expect that. So that sort of took me by surprise. I certainly expected people to have an opinion about whether this beloved material should be explored any further, and I believe that that’s a question, but it’s also a challenge that I’m happy to meet. All the stuff with Alan, I didn’t count on that or really give it much thought. It’s now an incredibly large issue. So, it is what it is. I guess the most important thing for me, and it’s funny because I have some friends in the business who I have an incredible amount of respect for, and they completely disagree with me on this thing. However, we all realize that we’re disagreeing about a comic book. Not about whether or not children should be allowed to eat. Not about whether we should be blocking the sun, so that Muslims don’t get any sun. We’re not burning the Koran. We’re producing a comic book here, and let’s keep it all in perspective.
Sometimes in my more charitable moments I have thought, regarding the team DC brought together for their Before Watchmen project (which includes a few creators, Cooke among them, whose prior work I rate highly), that I could disapprove of the project and obvious cash-grab motives behind it, but I didn’t necessarily have to write off everyone involved. Right?
But with every bit of news that trickled out through the comics hype machine, I found myself more and more ambivalent. I dropped the two series by Brian Azzarello that I was reading a few months ago, and the release of The Score, Cooke’s latest adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker novels, stopped being something I was looking forward to. I hugely enjoyed Cooke’s last two Parker adaptions, and now there was something in the way. Their other work had become problematic for me purely through their involvement in Before Watchmen, because even if I avoided those comics, buying their other work would be a tacit endorsement of people who had chosen to work on it and justified DC’s decision in public.
The form that justification takes deserves a closer look. DC’s main PR strategy with Before Watchmen has been to brazen it out, restrict its PR releases to the slavishly uncritical comics “news” sites. The other thread of the strategy has been for those involved to not-so-subtly denigrate and patronise Alan Moore, to paint him as the cranky old man that he has become to so many fanboy types when he refused to automatically enthuse over everything the modern comics industry produced.
It still enrages to see it laid out so openly, with the scare/sneer-quotes around “poor Alan Moore”. As if people supporting a creator’s objections to what is done with his work are being unreasonable. As if the obscenely profitable DC Entertainment, which got rich on the backs of artists whom it denied basic restitution for their creations, is the real victim.
Compare and contrast with this in-depth interview Cooke gave to promote the publication of The Score. Read it, and take in his obvious respect for the creator of the work he’s adapting. And try, as I did, to reconcile it with the quote at the top of this entry.
Suddenly, my ambivalence becomes much less of an issue. There’s no feeling of righteousness here; more a deep sense of dejection. I won’t lose that much keeping The Score off my shelf. Cooke has made his choice, and that in turn makes it easier to make mine.