Advice Unasked

On February 1, the New York Times ran an article about DC’s intention to do a sequel of Watchmen.

It will be, actually, a series of prequels of some of the characters.

Alan Moore, the creator of that seminal work, is not happy.

Many people are not happy with this development. The prequel is not a labor of love or even of any particular creativity. Other writers will be brought in, as will other artists.

WATCHMEN Creators Moore and Dave Gibbons, circa 1988

In this world of corporate decision, both are interchangeable; the created idea is merely a vehicle for their cheap expansions, their desperation to continue to be relevant in the field. We have only to peruse the movie industry’s past to gather in bucketsful of sequels, each cheaper, sillier and more insulting than the last.

So why am I so pee-o’d about this?

After all, I just finished a book for Terry Nantier (Inner Sanctum) and I think fair questions would be—did an old classic radio show need a sequel? Did a radio show that depended on the audience’s imagination need me to illustrate their stories?

Well, in a word, no.

But our take on Inner Sanctum is neither a prequel nor sequel. It’s a visualization of what was sound—glorious, crafted scripts that I listened to and was fascinated by. I don’t think the writers of that show would be insulted by my illustrating their words.

They might even be pleased.

But I don’t plan on doing prequels to known strips or comics.

Steve Canyon Teen Travails?

Bruce Wayne, Delinquent?

Anyway—the unasked for advice.

Moore described the contracts he signed with DC as “draconian”. That sounds like a sentence for imprisonment. What it was, was a “boiler plate” contract—we own everything and you own nothing. We do as we please with your creation and you have not a blessed thing to say or do about it.

Some of us still remember the checks we were paid with by all the companies; on the back was printed something along those lines, exemplified by the one phrase “work for hire”. When you endorsed that check, you agreed to its terms. It took a long time to get rid of that phrase—but nothing has changed.

You were, and still are, a hired hand.

I know exactly how Alan Moore feels.

Amethyst, Princess of the Gemworld was a shining point in my professional career.

When Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn approached me to join them in creating this lovely character, I was absolutely thrilled. We succeeded in bringing to DC, an audience of young girls along with the adventure-loving boys. Girls were rarely a factor in superhero and male-dominated fantasies.

We were proud of that.

When the series ended at the 12th issue, we hit a wall. I was on my way out of DC as editor, and Dan and Gary went their ways.

In the interim, DC has manhandled, spindled, bent and otherwise done to Amethyst what her enemies never could— they conquered her. They sequelled her to oblivion. She became a bit actor in other realms. But more importantly for this article—never were Dan Gary or I spoken to. Not for creative input, or opinion, or just to say hey…

Finally, the advice.

Bone up on business. Specifically the business of comics publishing. If they’re going to screw you—and they will–at least have some knowledge of the tools with which they’ll do the deed. If you decide to go ahead even knowing the screwing is about to begin, do it for the rent and do not look back.

Orpheus did and look what happened to him…

2 thoughts on “Advice Unasked”

  1. I came for the bit about Watchmen, but imagine my surprise to find Amethyst references. That original run remains one of my favorite comic book runs. Thanks for being part of its creation.


  2. Hey Ernie,

    Looong time no see! Great to see you on the internets! I loved Amethyst way back when, and just heard it’s getting a Showcase b&w format reprint! I think there’s a new series in the works or some hope of TV or movie… I know… nobody asked for your input right?
    Hope to see more posts!

    BTW folks – Back in the stone age of the early 80’s, when Ernie was an editor at DC (and I was a young geeky high school kid), he was the first pro who looked at my work and then gave me mini assignments to improve myself. Thanks Ernie!


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