April 3, 2012

You're No One in This Town: The Ballad of Alan and Declan

With the recent announcement of the Before Watchmen prequel series, Alan Moore has had plenty to say about the project....including that if people purchase the prequel series from DC, they should quit reading his other works immediately.

Of course, this is a gross simplification - after all, Moore is attempting to make a serious stand for creator's rights, and in all honesty, he did make a bad deal. (Yes, it is tempting to scold him for being "naive" back then, but who's to blame - Moore, for his naivete, or DC/Warner for exploiting that?). But there's something a little bit more pernicious at work, and quite honestly, it reminded me of a similar situation which, if the memory isn't cheating, happened about the same time....

(Actually, the memory was cheating - according to Google, the following happened in November/December 2011).

When Universal Music was about to release a mega-volume live/DVD set of his Sensational Spinning Songbook, Elvis Costello took the radical view that people shouldn't buy it, but purchase a Louis Armstrong boxed set instead.

Via wilbyington on Flickr
Why am I mentioning these two gentlemen, you may ask? I do so because behind their seemingly fight-the-power stance, there's an incredible amount of hypocrisy and - dare I say it - ego behind it.

Costello has been committing the more egregious errors of the two - after all, his back catalogue has been rereleased on CD multiple times for multiple companies (starting with the vanilla Columbia releases, followed by Rykodisc, then Rhino Records, and now Universal). Although his stunt seems cute, it does beg the question - does a man who continually rehashes his past catalogue, often adding "bonus tracks" (sometimes different across releases), really want people to acquire his work "by any other means"? Or is it more of a case of shrewdly creating a negotiating point for a later transaction.

With Moore, his heart seems in the right place, but his manner suggests that although he may believe he is fighting for overall creator rights, he is acting out of a sense of personal hurt. Given his frosty relationship with many of his co-collaborators, his more erratic recent work (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century - 1968 seemed less like a story and more a game of spot-the-reference), and his assumption that adaptation into other medium somehow changes the very nature of his books make his arguments less valid.

(And my position, for the record - Before Watchmen may be a good business decision for DC, it is an incredibly poor creative move. No one cares about these characters before Moore's novel - there's no need to discuss a sane Rorschach, or a slim Nite-Owl. Exploring the world of the Minutemen may be interesting, but this is more of a desperation move on DC's part than anything else).

Ultimately, in either case, the person who truly lacks the benefit is the fan - the person stuck in the middle, often having to choose between enjoying an artist's work despite the artist's wishes or avoiding something that may prove to be an exemplary experience.

Costello once wrote that "You're nobody 'til everybody in this town/Thinks you're a bastard". And both Costello and Moore seem to be moving in that direction.

No comments: