Every day I plant my seeds on twitter and see what trees will grow. When discussing the ongoing struggle against Time Warner and their child company DC Entertainment, particularly with regards to their campaign of exploitation against Alan Moore, I was chastised for framing the discussion in terms of black and white morality. Specifically, my argument is that all of the participants in the Watchmen project are in fact immoral.
I don’t see why people who are quick to condemn companies as entities shy away from judgement when talking about the men and women who carry out the offending actions. What DC is doing is wrong and the men and women who are working on these projects are wrong for working on the projects. I’ve heard it all about “they have families/mortgages, it’s not their fault” and blah blah blah. Personally, I make thirty thousand dollars per year. Darwyn Cooke is said to have received nearly half a million dollars for his Watchmen miniseries. So we can stop weeping for these poor starving artists who had no choice. Put your violins away.
Most people who know me flinch when I say: Watchmen is the greatest graphic novel of all time. Everybody protests, but my feeling is that they are protesting not the sentiment but rather that “greatest graphic novel of all time” is an answerable quantity. People want it to be unanswerable. Not coldly, flatly answered with “yes, there is a greatest–you read it already, years ago.”
This isn’t to say that better graphic novels aren’t possible in our medium’s future. Just that this book hasn’t been surpassed. Not surpassed in scope, intelligence, craft or cultural effect. Hasn’t been done yet.
Thimble Theatre is a better comic. It isn’t a graphic novel. Maus is important but it isn’t a graphic novel. No novel in comics form–no graphic novel–is greater than Watchmen. You have to deal with that. It isn’t an argument I am interested in having with people. As the greatest graphic novel yet created, it stands shoulder to shoulder with the other great testaments to the power of comics. Thimble Theatre, King Cat and so on. So then, some executives look at their legal documents and say: “yes. Let us add onto this story. That is a legitimate thing to do with a work of art. We shall commission a group of artists and writers to write so many spin-offs that the original work shall be dwarfed. Furthermore, as legal rights-holders we will insist that these new works are a part of the overall text that comprises Watchmen because we can.”
For actual decades, the devotees of this artform have struggled to see this medium treated as a legitimate field. One of the greatest arguments for graphic novels and comics in general as a legitimate creative artform has now been retrofitted as a hot summer crossover event. If art is to have any meaning to human culture then there should be some basic deference to the undisturbed value of the few works that have moved us forward as a people.