Alan Moore Changed A Watchmen Plot Point to Avoid Offending People

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Alan Moore changed a plot point in Watchmen to avoid offending people



My pal Stefan Wenger does a bi-weekly radio show on KOWS-FM where he does songs for a specific group of people. In other words, a different theme every week. This week, the theme was "Music For Outsiders." Stefan posted his tracklist for the show here. During the airing of the show, I was chatting with Stefan about Brian Wilson and Pet Sounds (one of the songs in the episode was Wilson's "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times") and how it is interesting to see how controversial these songs were at the time and now, of course, they're classics and you would have a hard time figuring out how they could have ever been deemed controversial.

The best example, I think, is how Wilson capitulated to pressure from Mike Love to change "Hold On Your Ego" to "I Know There's An Answer" because the original version was too much of a "doper's song." And it's funny, of course, since if you've ever listened to "Hold On To Your Ego," the song really is not even remotely edgy. And yet a guy as talented as Brian Wilson was willing to change the tune to avoid offense. That's fascinating to me.

That reminded me, in turn, of a fascinating bit from the classic Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons comic book series, Watchmen...

As you likely know if you have read the book (or watched the movie adaptation), the President of the United States in 1985 in the Watchmen universe is Richard Nixon...

What's interesting about that, to me, is that it ended up being Nixon because Moore didn't want to offend readers by having it be Ronald Reagan!

He has told this story a few places (I first read it back in an old Comics Interview issue), but most recently was in an Entertainment Weekly article by the great Jeff Jensen...

I also wanted to write about power politics. Ronald Reagan was president. But I worried readers might switch off if they thought I was attacking someone they admired. So we set Watchmen in a world where Nixon was in his fourth term — because you’re not going to get much argument that Nixon was scum! For me, the ’80s were worrying. “Mutually assured destruction.” “Voodoo economics.” A culture of complacency… I was writing about times I lived in.

Isn't that amazing? It is hard to forget that Moore was still fairly early in his comic book career when he wrote Watchmen, so while he was obviously cool with trying some new and innovative things (he had been doing it regularly in his Swamp Thing run already), it is interesting to see that even he was thinking, "Okay, I don't want to push things TOO far with people. I don't want to rip on Reagan directly or it might turn the audience off."

Can you even imagine a guy like Moore considering something like that in 2019?

Thanks to Jeff Jensen and Alan Moore for the excellent quote!

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