2. No comics shall explicitly present the unique details and methods of a crime. (The Last War in Albion Book Two Part Sixteen: Juxtaposition)
Previously in The Last War in Albion: DC took the somewhat unusual position that the real reason for Watchmen‘s success was their innovation in marketing it, a position embodied by Paul Levitz, who displayed a consistent attitude that what’s good for DC is good for freelancers and vice versa.
What’s perhaps odd is that Moore did not, at least at first, really differ from that belief. Indeed, the way in which Moore describes his falling out with the company is telling: “I was starting to realize that DC weren’t necessarily my friends.” Because it’s crucial to realize, Moore really did think they were. That’s the entire reason he never actually read the Watchmen contract: he trusted the people handing it to him had his best interests at heart. This was, of course, many things; hopelessly naive, for one. An almost inevitable extension of his honor among thieves approach to creating art, for another. But, perhaps most crucially, it was more or less how people like Paul Levitz were encouraging him to think. And so when Levitz subsequently got into a dispute with Moore and Gibbons shortly after Watchmen launched over whether or not they deserved royalties on the replica bloodstained yellow smiley badges that were being widely sold in comic shops (a dispute that was over, at most, a couple thousand dollars) and made a grand show of agreeing to a royalty without conceding the legal point by which DC had originally argued the badges, despite being sold in comic shops, were “promotional items,” Moore was understandably rattled, minor as the issue was. And when, later in 1986, Jeanette Kahn had lunch with Moore and Gibbons and made an off-handed comment about doing some Watchmen prequels and how “of course we wouldn’t do this if you were still working for us,” Moore was once again rattled by what he took as a threat. Indeed, as Moore put it when describing the incident in an interview four years later, “I really, really, really don’t respond well to being threatened. I couldn’t tolerate anyone threatening me on the street; I couldn’t tolerate anyone threatening me in any other situation in my life. I can’t tolerate anyone threatening em about my art and my career and stuff that’s as important to me as that. That was the emotional breaking point. At that point there was no longer any possibility of me working for DC in any way, shape, or form.”
Although it may well have been Moore’s breaking point, this was, as mentioned, still not quite the moment he decided to walk away from DC. But it’s a striking incident all the same, less for what it reveals about Moore (whose response was on the whole what you’d expect from him) but rather what it reveals about DC. The fact that Kahn remarked on how Moore’s willingness to work for them might impact their publishing plans is, after all, fairly compelling evidence that DC was already aware that they might be losing Moore as of 1986, despite the fact that at this point the only actual dispute between the two had been over the Watchmen buttons.…