Before Watchmen Or How Mark Hughes Is Wrong About Alan Moore



On February 1st DC Comics announced a line of prequels to Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ much celebrated series Watchmen. Entitled Before Watchmen, the series will appear in comic shops this summer and feature adventures by the original Minutemen, Nite Owl, Ozymandias, The Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan, Rorschach, and The Comedian. Shortly after DC’s reveal, Alan Moore discussed his feelings towards these prequels in a video interview, denouncing them and even calling the project “completely shameless.” Considering Moore’s stance towards Hollywood’s adaptations of his titles – V for Vendetta, From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Watchmen – it is really no surprise.

The response to DC’s new Watchmen books has been mixed. Some fans are siding with Moore, claiming the series is a travesty that will fail while others, especially Dan DiDio and Jim Lee from DC Comics, insist it is not in bad taste. Lee and DiDio stated that “after 25 years the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told,” and went to argue that “one of the key characteristics of the comic book medium is that it is not brought to life by just one voice,” and is rather a collective continuum where multiple voices lend their talent to a particular title or character. However, is that necessarily the case when it comes to a book like Watchmen? Is it possible this is just an attempt to drum up book sales by creating a new comic book universe that should be left alone?

In the article Alan Moore is Wrong About ‘Before Watchmen,’ author Mark Hughes claims Moore is “being a complete hypocrite.” Hughes’ criticism of Moore’s vehemence towards the Before Watchmen series stems from the notion that Moore’s output falls within similar lines and he is guilty of lifting established characters and using them for his own benefit, most notably in Lost Girls (featuring characters from Peter Pan and other literary works), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (containing famous literary characters such as Captain Nemo, Professor Moriarty and Dorian Gray among many others) and Watchmen (originally based on characters from the Charlton Comics company, which DC acquired shortly before Moore penned Watchmen). Hughes lambasts Moore by stating “this man [Moore] frankly made a career in comics using other people’s characters and works, and is angry about the reuse of characters whom he explicitly modeled – in very obvious ways – on other people’s existing characters and work.” However, Hughes’ commentary on Moore’s reaction seems shortsighted, ignoring the differences between what Moore did and what DC is doing: in essence, Before Watchmen is not creating something new from something old; instead it is just piggybacking off another story but leaving out the creative spark and the originality making Moore’s Watchmen so potent. It is adding to the mythology of Moore’s world instead of contributing a new and substantial piece to the comic book canon.


Alan Moore

Alan Moore


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Author: Emmanuel Malchiodi View all posts by
Emmanuel Malchiodi is a freelance writer living in New York City but originally from Florida.

8 Comments on "Before Watchmen Or How Mark Hughes Is Wrong About Alan Moore"

  1. Arduousandy March 8, 2012 at 7:21 pm -

    No sorry don’t buy it. Your article claims that more lifted the characters from classic works and put them in new situations. However before watchman is wrong because they are using established characters and telling a back story.

    Where is it different, LOEG told stories after the adventures of these characters and in some issues added to the classic works by adding new stories that tied into the original.

    • Emmanuel Malchiodi March 8, 2012 at 8:07 pm -

      This is probably where we will disagree but I see Moore’s use of
      literary characters in The League of
      Extraordinary Gentlemen more as Found Art, like Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain or L.H.O.O.Q., placing a different intention on a piece of our
      collective culture. Kind of like Andy Warhol’s use of Jackie O. or the Campbell
      Soup Cans, Moore is repositioning these characters into a different narrative.
      Even though Moore discusses the back-stories of the various literary characters
      he takes he is making is something completely new, almost like a collage of the
      Western Hemisphere’s literary canon.


      Going back to what I said in the article, I feel Before Watchmen is nothing more than
      tacking something onto an already established story instead of making something
      fresh. If DC wanted to do a completely new Watchmen
      (which they can do since they own the rights), making new observations about
      the contemporary world and creating new art I’d understand. That doesn’t mean
      I’d like it but the artistic motivation would be valid.


      I still hold that Before
      Watchmen comes across as nothing more than high budget fan fiction but I’ll
      have to wait until their release to see if my current predictions hold true. I
      could be wrong, making my and Moore’s stance nothing more than hot air (this
      would also prove Hughes correct).


      Even though we do not agree I really appreciate your comments
      and taking your time to read this. =)

      • Arduousandy March 9, 2012 at 4:12 am -

        But see when Warhol painted Jackie O it was just a painting he didn’t own Jackie O. And I can go ahead and re paint the same painting just say it’s my version, with zero recorse from the Warhol estate.

        And a second thing why is it ok for dc to use characters created by Kane, Nodell, and Seigle. But not Moore?

        • Emmanuel Malchiodi March 9, 2012 at 8:04 pm -

          Warhol painted the Campbell soup cans but the Jackie O. piece
          was actually four photographs taken from Life
          magazine (16 Jackies). Fair
          amounts of Warhol’s work, like the Marilyn Monroe or Chairman Mao pieces, were
          silkscreened. Naturally you could paint a recreation of Warhol’s pieces or
          anybody else’s but what is your intention with the work? Herein lies an
          important debate within the arts: what is the art saying? Is it art for art’s
          sake, does it say something or is it just commercial? Before Watchmen comes across like commercial art masquerading as


          Naturally I could be completely wrong about Before Watchmen (I said this before) but I agree with Moore’s
          statement that Watchmen is a “finite
          series” and therefore a complete work of art. Like I said in my article this
          new series seems like it is leeching off an already established and finished work
          instead of creating something original. If DC wanted to create an entirely new Watchmen I think I would appreciate it
          more (although I would still probably have major reservations about it).


          On the topic of DC using Batman, The Green Lantern or Superman I
          think it comes down to the intentions of the creators. If I am not mistaken
          these three characters were made for serialization. For instance, Bob Kane
          created Batman for Detective Comics
          and later developed the actual Batman
          comic series, intending it, because of its popularity, to be an ongoing saga.
          The intention of the author was a serialized and continual series; Moore did
          not feel that way. While it could be argued these are not continuations of
          Moore’s series I would disagree with that, especially since the series is
          marketed as a prequel. 

  2. Y10NRDY March 8, 2012 at 8:21 pm -

    Great article and I have to say I completely agree. Let’s face it, as much as I wish I lived in a parallel universe where 25 years later the Watchmen is part of an ongoing continuity where new stories can be told, I don’t. This is a cash-in. With some of the creative teams on board, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t interested, but the project will be haunted and likely do more harm than good.

    • Emmanuel Malchiodi March 8, 2012 at 11:16 pm -

      Thanks for the praises; I really appreciate it.


      I agree with you that some of the artists signed on to this
      project are excellent (Adam Hughes and Jae Lee to name a few) but that doesn’t
      mean it is not, like you said, a cash-in. Even though a few of the new DC re-launches
      are good (Detective Comics, Justice League, Batman) I still see it as a
      marketing gimmick and nothing else. Before
      Watchmen is just another example of DC pulling out all the stops because
      their titles were not selling like they want. Aside from the regular heavies –
      Dark Horse, Fantagraphics – Image is really where all the great, creative
      comics are coming from at the moment and DC has to know this, prompting such a
      daring move with these Watchmen
      prequels. Hopefully they won’t do a V for
      Vendetta prequel or sequel.


      Also, don’t they know that prequels are old hat? Star Wars really screwed that up for
      everybody else (and I do not care if anybody out there thinks I am an asshole
      for saying the new Star Wars movies
      are garbage – they are!).


      Thanks again for reading and take care. =)

  3. Eam21 March 8, 2012 at 11:31 pm -

    While I’m very cynical of these titles, I’m not gonna lie:  I have to check out at least the first one to see just how bad they screw this up.

    • Emmanuel Malchiodi March 9, 2012 at 12:15 am -

      I am going to read them too but my cynicism is overshadowing everything else. It will probably be like watching Star Wars Episode II and III: I knew I should have avoided them after The Phantom Menace was such crap but I went anyways. Thanks for reading and commenting. Take care. =)