Alan Moore vs. DC Comics: The Story Behind The "Unpleasantness"

Why in 1989 just after the release of of Watchmen and V for Vendetta, did Alan Moore leave DC Comics, vowing never to return?

In the 1980's Alan Moore was one of DC Comics most important writers, crafting immensely interesting and enduring takes on Superman and Batman, reviving the character of Swamp Thing (helping to create the character of John Constantine), and writing what is considered to be the greatest graphic novel of all time, Watchmen. So why in 1989 just after the release of his follow up series, V for Vendetta, did Moore leave the company and has been on bad terms with them since? Sadly it's because of that age old problem: money. Back then, DC had a pretty standard contract for their talent, one that stated DC owned the rights to a comic just as long as they used the characters in some form, usually by printing new edition of a book. If in one year the characters weren't used, the rights would revert back to Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. This was the normal way to do business at DC as it was unheard of at that time to produce multiple printings of the same graphic novel. Then Watchmen happened. The popularity of the book exploded, leaving quite a cash cow in DC's hands, one that they would never hand over the rights to anyone else. Add to that a dispute over merchandising (Moore and Gibbons never received any money from the Watchmen badge set, which DC defined as a 'promotional item'), and reports that the creators only earned 2% of the overall profits made by the series. Moore wasn't a happy man so he left, leaving at least one project unfinished, which I will talk about in a future article. But sadly this wasn't the last time he and DC would clash. After leaving DC, Moore set up an independent comic publishing company, Mad Love, which he initially used to focus on various political causes. Alongside Mad Love, he also began producing material for another independent called Taboo, which published From Hell and with who he began work on Lost Girls, which finally saw print in 2006. He worked as an independent for a few years before, in 1993, he made his way back to the mainstream and started writing superhero comics again, this time for Image Comics. He wrote stories for the company's most popular characters, including Spawn and WildC.A.T.S., before joining Image co-founder Rob Liefeld in his own company, Awesome Comics. Moore stayed there for a few years, but was unhappy because the people he worked for seemed to €œbe less than gentlemen€. He left Awesome Comics, and joined Jim Lee's company WildStorm Productions in 1999. One of the carrots dangled in Moore's face by Lee was the chance to make his own imprint, which he named Americas Best Comics. Through ABC he created The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Tom Strong, Promethea and Top Ten. But everything was far from perfect. Not long after Moore joined Wildstorm, Lee sold the company to DC, forcing him to work with the company he vowed never to work with again. Moore decided to go ahead with the imprint because there was too many people involved to back out, and DC assured him that they would not interfere directly with his work. They, of course, lied. One instance had an entire print run of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #5 destroyed because an advertisement in the story bore the word 'marvel'. To avoid any friction with Marvel Comics, DC Executive Paul Levitz ordered a reprint with the advertisement amended to 'amaze'. Also, a story involving Moore's character Cobweb and references to American occultist Jack Parsons and his ritual €œThe Babalon Working€ was blocked by DC due to, what they called, the subject matter. It was later revealed that a similar story was already published in their publication The Big Book of Conspiracies. With his stories planned for ABC coming to an end, and his increasing dissatisfaction with DC, Moore left Wildstorm, returning to independent comic publication. He retained the rights to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, launching a new saga with Volume III: Century, published by Top Shelf Productions and Knockabout Comics. So there it is, the full story of a 'war' between Alan Moore and DC comics. Moore hasn't hid his contempt for the company, saying pretty defamatory things in interviews and through other media. I find myself falling on Moore's side in this one. He doesn't own the rights to his most popular story and characters, thats like if George Lucas didn't own Star Wars (though some people would see that as a good thing). What do you think?
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