WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Terrifics #1
The first issue of DC Comics’ new science-action series The Terrifics ended with a shocking cliffhanger, which revealed that another one of writer Alan Moore’s original characters has been assimilated into the DC Comics Universe. This follows hot-on-the-heels of Alan Moore’s creation Promethea appearing in Justice League of America and the publication of Doomsday Clock – a sequel series to Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen, which is being produced without any input from Moore or Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons.
Alan Moore has a famously antagonistic relationship with DC Comics. The troubles apparently started when DC Comics created a Watchmen-themed badge set in defiance of Moore’s contract, which promised him final approval of any Watchmen-related merchandise. DC Comics claimed the badge set was a promotional item, not merchandise, which made it exempt from Moore’s contract. This legal trickery, coupled with pressure to develop sequels and spin-offs set in the Watchmen universe, drove Moore to cut ties with DC Comics. Moore went on to write several series under the America’s Best Comics label for Jim Lee’s Wildstorm imprint. When Lee sold Wildstorm and all of its properties to DC Comics in 1998, Moore honored his commitments but was quick to disengage himself from America’s Best Comics once he was able.
One of Moore’s creations for America’s Best Comics, the super-scientist Tom Strong, made an unexpected appearance at the end of The Terrifics #1. The action of the issue saw Mister Terrific attempting to track a strange signal into the depths of The Dark Multiverse. Accompanied by Metamorpho and Plastic Man, the trio discovered the source of the signal was a holographic black-box left behind by Tom Strong.
Although the mainstream Wildstorm reality was merged with the DC Comics Universe to create The New 52 Universe as a result of the 2011 mini-series Flashpoint, DC Comics had seemed content to leave everything Alan Moore created for America’s Best Comics alone. The timing of DC Comics’ use of Tom Strong and Promethea so close to their release of Doomsday Clock does not seem to be coincidental. This begs the question – why does DC Comics have the sudden need to assert dominion over Alan Moore’s creations?
DC Comics’ use of Moore’s characters seems particularly egregious given the company’s recent steps at improving their record on creator’s rights. DC Comics reached a financial settlement with the families of Superman co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and began crediting writer Bill Finger as the co-creator of Batman. Most recently, the company achieved peace with Black Lighting co-creator Tony Isabella, who had gone to war with DC Comics more than once over the management of the character.
Perhaps DC Comics elected not to bother reaching out to Moore, who has made his feelings on further collaborations quite clear? Even if that’s the case, this still does nothing to explain why they did not reach out to artists like Dave Gibbons or Promthea co-creator J.H. Williams III regarding the recent use of the characters. While DC Comics is not legally obligated to do so, they’ve had a policy of consulting with creators over the use of popular original creations in the past, such as Neil Gaiman’s Endless from The Sandman or James Robinson’s Jack Knight from Starman. Whatever the reasons, it seems hypocritical on DC Comics’ part to use Tom Strong in The Terrifics.
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