I wanted to share an interesting story. Or at least, I think it’s interesting.
I missed out on the big seminal works from the early 80s, stuff like Watchmen, Dark Knight, Sandman, all the stuff that had a big impact on the rest of the books that followed it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve since read and enjoyed all of those books, but when I was first getting into comics, and more importantly when I first started writing comics, I hadn’t read any of those books yet.
I started working on a story that I thought was brilliant. I had a group of disbanded former superheroes who now led ordinary regular lives while a new generation of heroes had taken their place. The story focused on a pair of these retired heroes (and they weren’t retired because they were old, necessarily, but retired because crime-fighting is a dangerous and damaging career) who were friends and hung out and did things like drink coffee and watch movies.
Then their former teammates started dying. They had a funeral for the first of the heroes to die, where they met up with all their old teammates and some of the new breed that had taken over for them. The duo that the story focused on were an odd couple, a fairly straight-laced former dark avenger type, while the other was a paranoid, mentally unstable former government operative. This whackjob guy came to the conclusion that someone was killing off the retired heroes.
(Please keep in mind, and please believe me when I say that when I was developing this, my magnum fucking opus, I still HAD NOT read Watchmen, nor did I really know any of the story or plot points from Watchmen.)
Eventually more of the older heroes died, some of them murdered viciously in their own homes by an unseen assailant. This is where my story differed, because the killer turned out to be one of the new breed of “heroes” that had taken on the role when the older group retired. However, I did have my duo break into the superhuman prison in order to interrogate a number of supervillains incarcerated there.
I developed so many characters for this, outlined this long over-arching plotline of conspiracy and paranoia.
Then I bought and read the Watchmen trade paperback, and shit myself. Not literally, but literarily. I couldn’t believe that the story I’d worked so hard on, for so long, was basically a page-for-page ripoff of the most famous comic book story in the world that I had never previously read. And man, it was way better than what I had been cooking up. My story devolved into a straight-up slugfest…which, to be honest, might be better than an alien invasion uniting all of mankind, but that’s a discussion for another day.
I read somewhere that ideas exist all in the same “idea-space”, which is how similar stories and themes and plots can be created independently of one another. I think that’s true, because, God’s honest truth, I wrote Watchmen (basically) before I read it. Alan Moore and me, you know, great minds think alike.
I never touched that story again, but I did cannibalize the shit out of it, taking the characters and putting them into new stories. The dark avenger type evolved into Spencer Cradle (he even kept the Davidian code-name) and ended up the main character in Knowledge, although he sort of took on the paranoid guy’s personality.
So there you go. The story of me independently creating Watchmen, a good ten or fifteen years after Alan Moore wrote it.
Do yourself a favor and go listen to “Declaration of Conformity” by the Wellwater Conspiracy.