With Before Watchmen stamping all over comics’ sacred ground and radical reinventions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Huckleberry Finn coming to cinemas in the near future, there’s been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth–a lot of cursing the skies, the rain and everyone involved with these projects that are perceived to be sullying the good works that came before them.
And above the din of it all, there’s one thing that keeps coming through–be it from fans, from creators, from Alan Moore in every interview he does: Create something new.
In a world where remakes and sequels make more money at the box office than do original concepts, it’s an easy argument to understand but, for a for-profit corporation, probably a difficult one to take to heart. The Hunger Games impressed last weekend not only because it was impressive in its own right, but because it quickly overtook the record for biggest opening for a non-sequel. It had to pass a handful of sequels and remakes afterwards–and a few that it didn’t.
As far as Ninja Turtles and Huck & Tom are concerned, the logic goes–and it’s hard to argue–that if you’re going to radically change the story and/or characters, then why even call what you’re doing “Ninja Turtles“? Why not come up with your own idea, wherein you can tell whatever story you want and not anger the fans of these existing properties? The fact is, of course, there is value to the property names alone, but it’s still hard for fans to accept when it happens to a story or characters they love.
Before Watchmen is a little different, but the same logic applies. Rather than defile a work that was always intended to be closed-ended, the argument goes not just from Alan Moore but from any number of critics and pundits on the Internet since the project began to be rumored three years ago, why not just apply the considerable creative brainpower that DC has brought to bear on the Watchmen prequels and pay those people to create their own universe of new, original work? Not only would it steer clear of violating the intent of the original story but, who knows? You might just create the next Watchmen right there on the spot! It’s a vision that many creators have offered and Before Watchmen, along with a few other high-profile creator-rights battles in recent months, seems to have galvanized a good portion of the comics community toward doing something about being the change they want to see in the industry.
It’s funny because the movie problems could be solved, if only more media were more like comics. While it doesn’t help Alan Moore, comics are perfectly comfortable repurposing characters through the thin veil of a new name and costume and plugging right along to tell the story they want to tell, even if they don’t own Superman. Hell, Watchmen itself famously had its genesis in Moore and Gibbons being contacted about telling a story using DC’s newly-acquired Charlton Comics characters. If movies were run more like comics, then Michael Bay could have his Alien Ninja Turtle-Like Creatures, slap a new coat of paint on the franchise and relaunch it like it’s his own idea. Everybody wins, and nobody has to watch a movie about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn living in modern-day New York fighting vampires or something.