Did Alan Moore 'Steal' 'Watchmen' From A 1970s Novel?

I loves me a tasty comics conspiracy story, and the article "Alan Moore and Superfolks Part 1: The Case for the Prosecution" on The Beat is as good as it gets. The schadenfreude is all there -- accusations of one of the most famous comic authors of all time stealing borrowing concepts from a lesser-known work, rumblings of a possible feud between industry titans, and more. As it's only one of a three-part post, there's probably still a lot to be revealed here. But here's what's on the table so far:

In 1977, Dial Press published a book called "Superfolks" by Robert Mayer. It's was about "real life" superheroes at their most dysfunctional: a retired "Superman" type figure looking for a comeback, an incestuous brother/sister team that are obviously based on Billy Batson/Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel, and a crumbling 1970s backdrop filled with crime and corruption. While the author of the Beat article, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, concludes that "Superfolks" is "really not very good," it apparently influenced a whole generation of comic book writers (who would go on to influence yet another set of comic book writers, ad infinitum).

And, maybe, it was of particular interest to one Mr. Alan Moore, as he wrote arguably one of the most famous comics of all time: "Watchmen." At least, Grant Morrison apparently hinted at that conclusion. Apparently more than once.

This all brings up the separate issue of a possible Moore/Morrison beef, which Méalóid promises to put the microscope on in part 3 of the Beat series.

There's a lot to read in that article, and I'll let you delve into it if you are so inclined. As to the idea that Moore possibly "stole" "Watchmen" from "Superfolks"...no, I don't think one can say that, any more than we can point the fingers at all the other comics inspired by "Watchmen," or heroes inspired by Superman, The Punisher, etc. (themselves stolen inspired from other sources).

That said, after reading this article I again raise my eyebrows at Moore's claims (and the at-times fanatic claims by his supporters), that the "Watchmen" characters must remain forever "pure" from further tinkering -- considering he has been doing so with other characters (whether directly or indirectly) for a good long time.

But is Moore a "thief" in the case of "Superfolks"? Certainly, I'd need to read more baout this case, but from what I've seen so far I would say "no."

I'd like to end this post with a rather extended quote from "Cerebus" creator Dave Sim:

"Someone asked about working for the mainstream companies [Marvel and DC]; something along the lines of ‘what if you have a really good Batman story or X-Force story you want to do.’ I pointed out that 1963 is the answer to that. Everyone knows who the characters are supposed to be. Just change the way they look and the name. It dates back to Watchmen, actually. As soon as a DC executive told Alan Moore to change the original Charlton characters into new characters (DC already had plans for the Fly, Blue Beetle, etc) and as soon as DC trademarked and copyrighted those new characters; well hey, that’s checkmate on the big board. If you change the way the character looks and his name, you’ve created a new character. So if that’s what’s holding you back from self-publishing, just pick a character you’ve always wanted to do, call him something else, change a few things about his appearance and away you go. And you don’t have to worry about some editor with a stick up his or her ass making you conform to company policy. You can do the story exactly the way you want it done. Isn’t that great? Well, I think it is."

This sort of mentality has seemed to be going on in comics (and books, pulps, movies, etc.) for just about forever. In order to take out every outside  influence on these heroes, you'd have to go back to Roman and Greek and  Egyptian and Babylonian folklore. Only difference now as opposed to the true Classics is: copyright lawyers, "intellectual property," and billion-dollar movies.

Related Posts:

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NYCC 2012: Grant Morrison Talks 'Multiversity,' 'We3,' MorrisonCon, and Being A Music Video Villain

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