Who WIll Watch "Before Watchmen"?
And just like that, DC implodes the Internet. What was long whispered in hushed tones and speculated in comic book stores across the country (not to mention brought up yearly by Bleeding Cool) has become a reality. Whether we want it or not, DC comics is bringing us Before Watchmen, a series of prequel mini-series that will expand on the characters and events established in Watchmen, the much-lauded “greatest comic book of all time”. This news has cracked the nerd world in half. Alan Moore is pissed (as usual), and now we’re seeing two camps of fans emerging from the bomb that DC has just dropped on us: those who don’t want these books at all, and those that are embracing it and waiting with baited breath. So where do I fall?
Somewhere in the middle I suppose.
I first read Watchmen as a sophomore in college. Having just seen 300 and being in awe of the visuals, I heard the news of director Zack Snyder circling the story for a film adaptation, something that was never supposed to happen in anyone’s lifetime. I had always heard the praise surrounding the story, and even knew the twist ending (thanks Wizard), but despite this, I was engrossed in the story. The world that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created was endlessly fascinating. It was dark, gloomy, and intelligent. I also wondered how the hell it would turn into a movie, and for my money, Snyder’s adaptation is the best thing we could have ever gotten. The title sequence is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen on film, and the performances by Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach and Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan are perfect. Plus, it got even more people to go out and read the source material.
But I’m not here to talk about the movie. I’m here to talk about Before Watchmen, DC’s worst kept secret for the past few years. To be completely honest, I’m surprised they didn’t try to get this stuff out when the movie was released a few years ago. But it’s happening, and you know what? This is our best-case scenario. For starters, it’s a prequel, so we don’t have to see any continuation from the ending of the original story, nor do we need to worry about a retread or reboot of events that have already occurred once before. The idea of the prequels is a legitimately good idea, especially with something like Watchmen. Tell me those of you that read it weren’t curious as to how some of those characters became the people they were? Yes we get background info on the characters and the world of the original story, and if you are content with that, then you don’t have to read these prequels. They’re here for people who want to know even more about the world that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created. No one is forcing you to read them; though I’m sure DC would like you to so they can get cash money.
Keeping in line with whether you want to read them or not, DC has done a really good job packaging this new expansion of the Watchmen world. Were you a fan of the Rorschach parts, but tuned out during Ozymandias’ bits? Then just pick up Rorschach. Want to see more of the Minutemen? Darwyn Cooke’s got you covered. There’s no need to read every single one of the seven mini-series being produced. In many ways, you can pick and choose what you want (or don’t want) to read. There seems to be no mandate to pick up all of them to get the overall picture of these prologues. In fact, there may not BE an overarching story behind all of these, and that’s okay. That’s probably better in case they end up being crap. You can just throw them away in a long box and forget they ever existed. I’d rather have individual miniseries for certain characters then one long mega-event that would force me to read characters I don’t care about.
However, I highly doubt that any of these series will be complete crap. Continuing on my “best case scenario” theory, with Before Watchmen, DC is putting their top creators on the individual projects. Hell, the fact that Brian EFFING Azzerello and Lee Bermejo (the team behind Joker, one of my favorite depictions of the clown prince of crime) are undertaking the Rorschach mini series makes that one a must-buy for me. Every creator involved, from J. Michael Straczynski to Cooke has a deep respect and admiration for the original work, and I’d be hard pressed to think any of them would phone it in. Hell, even Len Wein (the editor of the original story) is involved and writing two of the stories! Add to this some of the top artists in the business, including J. G. Jones, Amanda Connor, Jae Lee, Adam Hughes, and the already mentioned Bermejo and Cooke and I’m starting to think that this may be one of the biggest events of the decade for comics, arguably more than DC’s “New 52”. These are high demand artists, and the announcement of this project pretty much reveals where they have been for the past year.
Of course, I have to mention the great Alan Moore. Yes, he is arguably the greatest comic book writer of all time. He has done more things for the medium than any other, with the exception of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. But, he’s CRAZY. His response to this news wasn’t all that surprising (we all knew he would be against ANYTHING done to Watchmen), but his claims that he wished people wouldn’t use his characters is pretty ridiculous. He must’ve forgotten the fact that he used Captain Nemo, Mr. Hyde, Mina Harker, and numerous other classic literary figures in his League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. Or that he has written books starring Batman, Superman, and Swamp Thing, all characters that I’m pretty 100% sure that he didn’t create. The characters in Watchmen are all based on characters from Charlton Comics that DC acquired, so technically Mr. Moore, you didn’t create them entirely from scratch. Yes, you created the story, the world, and changed around some of their powers, but to say you created them is incorrect, and calling foul now makes you a hypocrite. You signed the rights to DC. You gave Dave Gibbons your blessing when the movie came out. You have called all modern comics “rubbish”, but have failed to read a SINGLE ONE. With his statements today, Alan Moore has proven that he was the best thing, and the worst thing to happen to comic books.
My reactions to Before Watchmen went from shock, to dismay, to cautious optimism all within the span of the five minutes for me to read the article on Bleeding Cool. And you know what, I still fit into the “cautiously optimistic” category. Again, this is our best case scenario: we have a prequel that we can either count or not count as fitting in with the original story, and we have some of the best creators in the business working on them. They are all fans, and I believe that they will do their absolute best to make a worthy companion piece to the original story. They kind of have to, because if not, crazy wizard Alan Moore will curse them for all eternity.