Before Watchmen

After years of speculation, DC has announced that they are doing prequel series for all of the main characters, and one for the Minutemen.  Directly below, you’ll see the information that was announced by DC.  Below the break, you’ll get my thoughts on this.  From DC’s press release, here are the books, with number of issues and the creators involved.

  • RORSCHACH (4 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Lee Bermejo
  • MINUTEMEN (6 issues) – Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
  • COMEDIAN (6 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: J.G. Jones
  • DR. MANHATTAN (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artist:  Adam Hughes
  • NITE OWL (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artists: Andy and Joe Kubert
  • OZYMANDIAS (6 issues) – Writer: Len Wein. Artist: Jae Lee
  • SILK SPECTRE (4 issues) – Writer: Darwyn Cooke. Artist: Amanda Conner

One issue will be released each week for 35 weeks.  In the back of each issue will be a two pages of a story called Curse of the Crimson Corsair, written by Len Wein and drawn by John Higgins.  To round out the 35 books will be an epilogue with various writers and artists.

Normally, I like looking at comments on the Internet to see the general reaction something is getting from the minority, but very vocal, fans that make up the Internet fans.  However, I choose to stay clear from this one, though I did glance at CBR’s twitter feed of people in comics.  Some of it was positive, people liking the creators involved.  Some of it was negative, certain Image founder that can see the future and knows these books are shit.  This project does have the blessing of one of Watchmen’s creators, Dave Gibbons, who said, “The original series of WATCHMEN is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell. However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire.”  Of course, Alan Moore is against this, comparing his work to Moby Dick, and there are no sequels or prequels to Moby Dick.

So, what do I think of this?  I’m okay with it, though I also don’t hold Watchmen on as high a pedestal as many others.  Sure, it was a great series, but is it untouchable?  No.  Is it responsible for how comics are today?  No.  If it were, then how do you explain what was published in the ’90s?  But let’s look at some criticisms.

Do the stories need to be told?  Of course not.  But if we’re going to use that level of scrutiny to Before Watchmen, let’s apply it to all comics.  There aren’t any comics being published with stories that need to be told.  The more important question is “are there stories to tell?”  And I thin this answer is yes.  When initially pitching the series, Moore was intending on using already existing characters (the Charlton characters) and not new creations.  This would allow him to use the characters histories as background so he could focus on the present.  When forced to use “original” characters, Moore did not go back and add a lot of history to his characters, with the exception of Dr. Manhattan.  So, there are holes that can be filled with new stories.  Do those holes need to be filled in order to get a better handle on the main series?  Of course not, but these new stories aren’t about enhancing the understanding of Watchmen.  It’s about a business making money off of its property.

Which is what really perplexes me about this announcement.  This seems to be several years too late.  It seems like a better time to have done this would have been before the movie came out, when the collection of Watchmen was topping the charts for several months.  Now, people aren’t really buying the trade, and Watchmen has really been on the minds of people until this announcement.

And don’t give me this, “they’re shitting on Alan Moore’s work,” argument.  Remember he wanted to use the Charlton characters.  Characters someone else created.  He was stopped because Dick Giordano didn’t want him to make those characters that DC had just purchased unusable.  He had no problem doing dramatic things to someone’s creations.

DC releasing these comics is not going to change anything with the original series.  Every single copy of Watchmen is not going to be rounded up and destroyed so that you’d have to acknowledge that the prequels exist if you wanted to read an original.  Do you have any idea of how many continuations of Pride and Prejudice there are?  (I wish I didn’t.)  Yet, the original still exists, and is just as “good” as it has always been.  If you don’t like people not named Alan Moore working on stories with the characters of Watchmen, then just ignore.  Life will continue on.

I know that’s probably a lot of rambling, but my mind has been all over the place trying to put my thoughts on this together, but I hope it’s been halfway coherent.  I’ll probably buy the series written by Brian Azzarello and Darwyn Cooke.  A Darwyn Cooke book about the Minutemen in the 40s and 50s is something I can get excited about.  Remember DC:  The New Frontier?  How could I not want more stories like that?  Also, I’ve really liked what I read from Azzarello.

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