By Isaac Butler
I find it very hard to get at all worked up about DC's new line of Watchmen Prequel Comics. Don't get me wrong. These comics will almost certainly suck, and I don't think DC should have comissioned them. But that's because they're a bad idea. All the history of the characters you need to know is in the book itself.
However, when I read creator Alan Moore say stuff like this:
"I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago...As far as I know, there weren't that many prequels or sequels to Moby-Dick."
I just want to laugh. The vast majority of Alan Moore's career has been spent overtly depending on ideas that other people have had years, decades or a century ago. (For a pretty exhaustive list, see this). By Moore's own standards articulated here, the vast majority of his work shouldn't exist, including Watchmen itself.
The characters in Watchmen themselves aren't "original". They are loosely based on characters from a largely forgotton comics publisher called Charlton Comics, and they are all inflected with aspects of other, current superheros and villains. Rorschach, for example, is a semi-parodiy of Steve Ditko's The Question. Night Owl bares a more than passing resemblence to Batman, and the Comedian and the Punisher could be brothers.
Like his buddy Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore's true talents lie in these kinds of pastiches. He's perceptive enough about the meta-levels of stories to burrow into the dark, uncomfortable places that lie at the heart of our popular myths, taking those uncomfortable subtexts and making them visible. Which is a good thing! I like Alan Moore! And I love the idea that true originality lies in the telling rather than wholly in the story, that it's as much about what you do with the materials than the materials themselves.
You can't make your career reconfiguring and reexamining the creations of others without their consent and then get upset when someone does it to you.