This summer, DC Comics is going to offer seven mini-series featuring characters from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen. The announcement has the comic book community up-in-arms. As part of that community, the Retcon Punch staff has weighed in with their opinions. Welcome to the Chat Cave.
Patrick: I understand that the prospect of “More Watchmen” is getting everyone’s ire up. Don’t we all wish we had a machine that let was travel back in time to get the Simpsons cancelled in 1999? Don’t we wish George Lucas stopped producing movies after Last Crusade? Legacies tarnish so easily, why subject the idealized form of graphic novel to that same treatment?
Because it might be good. DC knows what they’re dealing with – they have to. If you’re ever looking for a new way to praise something, do a Google search for “Watchmen review” and see what pops up. Praise has been heaped so high upon Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ masterpiece that “Watchmen” is essentially synonymous with perfection. It is well respected in all circles, and is frequently read by people who “don’t normally read these things.” Watchmen has never been out of print over the last 27 years. And that Watchmen movie that came out a few years ago was huge. DC is placing their A team on these titles and they seem to understand exactly what’s at stake.
The titles are going to hit the shelves this summer, which is usually prime cross-over-event season in the comic book world. I know most of the Batman titles will be knee-deep in the Night of Owls, but I haven’t heard of any line-wide crossovers in the near future. That makes Before Watchmen this summer’s event. But unlike Flash Point or Blackest Night, this event is restricted to 7 mini-series that will be 4 to 6 issues in length. The only cost of entry is having read the most widely-read comic in history. This is poised to be the most accessible DC event I’ve ever encountered.
Shelby: Oh boy. I honestly don’t know how to feel about this. On the one hand, I’ve got the same elitist, knee-jerk reaction everyone else out there has: How dare DC even thinks to touch this perfect comic book specimen?!??!? Alan Moore is not happy about it, and Neil Gaiman, a writer I greatly respect, said on his website he was “happy we had 25 Watchman prequel-free years.” And honestly, I don’t know if I need to know more about this universe. Moore’s opus is perfectly encapsulated; there isn’t anything I need to know about those characters that I can’t get from The Watchmen.
On the other hand, maybe I want to know more. I love these characters, I love their strengths and their weaknesses. Like so many people, The Watchmen were what made me start reading graphic novels and comics, and I would love to spend more time with them. And, come on, Azzarello writing Rorshach and The Comdeian? Who wouldn’t want to read that?!
I guess I’ve landed in the “cautiously optimistic” zone, like so many other readers. Let’s be realistic, there’s no way these new titles can in any way diminish The Watchmen and what Moore and Gibbons did for the story-telling industry; I don’t know if there’s anything that could knock that book off its pedestal. What I *hope* will happen is Moore’s universe will be enriched and somewhat rejuvenated by these new titles.
Peter: In short, I’m pissed. When Watchman was first published between September of 1986 and October of 1987 it was groundbreaking. It was both commercially successful for DC, as well as critically successful, receiving praise for both Alan Moore’s writing and Dave Gibbons’ art. It has since gone onto spawn a live action feature length movie, and has become the most read, and popular comic of all time. Now here we are 25 years later, and DC wants to open it back up again. I just can’t see it. Not after all this time anyway. Watchmen has been a powerhouse for the last 25 years. That much is certain. I just cannot see this turning out well at all. Even Alan Moore doesn’t want this to happen. Alan-Friggin-Moore. The man has delivered some of the best comics of all time, and if he says that a comic shouldn’t be written, then he knows best.
I can see where DC is coming from. Jim Lee is correct is say that it his job to keep old characters relevant in todays comic market. That makes perfect sense. But why Watchmen? Why? Next thing you know, there will be a prequel or a sequel to V for Vendetta. Also, regardless of anything, DC Comics know that this will be a HUGE cash cow. Moooore money. If that is really the main reason behind this, than shame on DC. That being said, yes i will probably read these books. While, at this juncture I am not happy that these are being written, I will not completely condemn them now. If DC is putting so much stock in these books, I will give them an honest shot. But color me skeptical.
Drew: Like all nerds, the Star Wars prequels have left me deeply skeptical of sequels, prequels, or spin-offs initiated decades after the original, a description which Before Watchmen woefully fits. Except for where it doesn’t. At least the Star Wars prequels had the blessing and input of George Lucas. Some might say that allowing him sole creative control was what caused the prequels to suck so much, but at least they were his to ruin. More importantly, I never thought of Star Wars as a perfectly contained, self-sufficient work of art the way I see Watchmen.
I suppose my biggest objection is that this is entirely unnecessary. To me, Watchmen isn’t just a story featuring interesting characters, it’s the story those characters were designed to fit into. We’ve seen all the back-story we need for those characters, and to suggest otherwise is to suggest that Watchmen is somehow incomplete. Moreover, treating them as characters kind of ignores their allegorical significance in the story — sometimes (to piggy-back on Alan Moore’s line about Moby Dick) a white whale is more than a white whale.
Actually, that thought has inspired a new biggest objection: if even the greatest, most sacred works of art in the comics cannon can be cannibalized, how can we ever hope to elevate the art form to the level of literature and film? Sure, the film industry seems close to releasing Apocalypse Now 2: Apacalypsier, but at least in literature, prequels like The Young Man and the Sea or Catch-21 are thankfully still unthinkable, or at least relegated to the world of fan fiction. That fan-fic line is a little blurrier in the world of comics, where writers are traded on a regular basis, but Watchmen always played (and should play) by a different set of rules.