Comic book legend Alan Moore isn’t happy about the state of the comic book industry. He’s retired because he has no interest in the medium and he doesn’t like how these characters have been “stolen” from the creators. And boy, he’s not going to be pleased with the release of the Rorschach comic book series by Tom King, Jorge Fornés, and Dave Stewart.
For Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins, Watchmen was supposed to be a self-contained story. It had a clear beginning, middle, and end. Yet, with DC owning the rights, it means it also decides what to do with these characters. For years, the publisher resisted the urge of bringing these characters into the expanded universe, but that all changed with Rebirth. Now, the Watchmen characters are everywhere—in Doomsday Clock, on TV, and now in a new series for Rorschach.
To be fair, the new additions to the Watchmen legacy haven’t been bad at all, rather the contrary. They’ve been integrated into the DC Universe and even tackled some of the themes that the series introduced in 1986. Rorschach aims to do something similar, according to King.
“Like the HBO Watchmen show and very much like the original ’86 Watchmen, this is a very political work,” he told DC. “It’s an angry work. We’re so angry all the time now. We have to do something with that anger. It’s called Rorschach not because of the character Rorschach, but because what you see in these characters tells you more about yourself than about them.”
While King’s story is one that deserves to be told, it’s also about time that comic book publishers start respecting the fact that some works can be one-offs and don’t need to be tied into a popular IP. Why couldn’t this story be about an original set of characters with no ties to Watchmen?
The Big Two are in desperate need of new characters and self-contained works, because we’re in a constant cycle of recycling characters and ideas. A new character or series is always a risk, because it might not have the appeal of a Batman or Superman, but there’s a reason that the best comics on the market are not published by DC or Marvel anymore. It’s the likes of Image, Dark Horse and Aftershock that are taking the risks and reaping the rewards.
In a twisted ironic way, Moore’s creations are turning the comic book industry into what he despises about it: the “stealing” of characters. It’s still the same characters doing the same things after decades. I mean, isn’t it sad how the most popular and highest-grossing comic book characters around were all created eons ago, and new creations struggle to find the same foothold in pop culture?
Maybe the fault for all of this lies at the doors of us—the consumers. If books like Rorschach sell, DC will do more of them in the future. Similarly, if we ignore the original creations, they’ll disappear. With the comic book industry in a state of flux, the onus is on us to decide if it goes in a new direction or just maintains the status quo.