Calm Down, Before Watchmen Won't Be The End Times For Comics Creativity

If you listen to certain corners of the internet, the souls of comics fans everywhere are going to cry out for justice come June 6th. That's when DC Comics starts rolling out Before Watchmen, the controversial prequels to Alan Moore's beloved dystopian superhero opus.

Written and drawn by legendary creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Watchmen holds a special place in many comics' readers hearts. Its intricate narrative design and psychologically surprising characters combined to form a work that let longtime superhero readers hold their heads high. The series helped pave the way to literary respectability for a genre once derided as juvenilia. It's understandable that people would want to leave Watchmen undisturbed, even as this project swirled around as rumour for years. Moore's had harsh words for Before Watchmen and the people involved. That shouldn't surprise anyone who's followed his latter-day career, though. No matter whether you want to label Moore a crank or a hypocrite, he has a history with the work and the publisher that's his alone.

But all the hue and cry from fans over the strip-mining of Rohrshach, the Comedian and others drowns out a crucial truth: for a fan, it's never good for any entertainment to be too sacrosanct to touch.

The thing about superhero comics is that there's an implicit baton-passing built into the genre's DNA. The assembly-line creative process that's been part of comics since its inception started out as a mercenary and efficiency-driven practice, but it's spawned inspired mixes of talent that have been happy accidents. There's no getting around the fact that DC Entertainment is doing these prequels to get money. I hated the Watchmen movie and video game that was made for the ssame reasons. But we still might get some good, maybe even great comics out of Before Watchmen.

As far as I can tell, Darwyn Cooke's never phoned in a day of work in his life. Even J. Michael Stracynski, whose recent work leaves me increasingly cold prides himself on a certain amount of polish. When new creators jump on established characters, there's an opportunity for a different yet equally as compelling take on someone else's creation. Moore himself's done excellent work in this paradigm. I think that comics fans need to at least exhale long enough to see how the quality of the books turn out.


Comments

    Huge Watchmen fan, and while I somewhat agree with Moore on this issue, I find myself looking forward to these comics. The problem really lies with Watchmen being a completely self-contained story, a beginning, a middle, and an end. These characters histories/origins are explained the main book and they were never intended to carry on adventures for 70 years like Superman, Batman, etc. At least they have good talent on the books, but it does just look like a cash grab. Fingers crossed they aren't terrible!

    There is one quote I heard about Before Watchmen which turned me off of it completely; it came from which ever writer is doing Dr Manhattan's backstory. I can't find the quote, but I'll paraphrase it.

    "I think there's a lot of story to be written, like what was going through John's head as he walked into the super explodey chamber. Why would someone as smart as him just walk into his doom? What was he thinking?"
    Something like that. Anyway, I read it and thought "NO, THERE WAS NOTHING THERE. HE WENT TO GET HIS WATCH AND DIDN'T KNOW THE TEST WAS ABOUT TO START."
    And that's why I think, at least Manhattan's story will be terrible.

      Was he perhaps referring to Manhattan walking into Ozymandias' chamber near the end?
      (My theory is that he 'knew' the outcome already yadda-yada-yadda.

      I'm still not supporting these prequels.
      I love the characters too, but it's a cash grab.
      Simple.

    Shameless cash grab. Watchmen was important in part because of its parody of existing characters and villains, and how it jumped into a world, explained its backstory in a concise and uncompromised fashion, and followed it to its abrupt resolution. This will only muddy that.

    Graphic novels work best in standalone fashion, just like anything does. Creating an open-ended series will leave room for owners to cash in further, but will drag out the initial concepts until they become shallow clichés.

    The problem is not the shameless cash grabbing so much as the lack of artistic integrity and the corruption of a story by someone foreign to it and that has to come with material for it in exchange of a payment. A Watchmen prequel by Moore would still be as much of a cash-grabber, but at least it would come from the creator. You conceivably could figure him mulling over the years here and then about the characters he knows so much, getting ideas, gathering momentum until he comes up with something organically created, true to his original vision and with the same narrative style and direction.

    You shouldn't be comparing a self-contained story like that to superman or similar comics but to books. Would you like to hear about Moby Dick 2 by A. Rand Omchum and Sommer Etard? I bet no.

    "The thing about superhero comics is that there’s an implicit baton-passing built into the genre’s DNA."

    It isn't a super hero comic.

    I don't think it will end creativity, but it certainly doesn't seem like positive change either.

    In a recent interview with Moore, he stated that this proves creativity in the comics industry is already dead as they are just recycling 20 year old ideas, rather than coming up with something as exciting and unique as Watchmen was at its time.

    ... except that Watchmen was depressing and sickening, with unempathisable characters and no enjoyable conclusion. It was a giant love letter to despair (that's it's theme and the cause it champions- it doesn't necessarily make the reader despair). It's hard to overstate quite HOW sickening Watchmen is... from Comedian murdering his pregnant lover, to the emotionless inhumanity of Dr. Manhatten, to (most of all) the genuinely horrific asides of the ghost ship story (I'll spare readers the details). Can't see why anyone would, in fact, like it. And people have just FAILED to see that comics did in fact grow up- you wonder if the poor, bastard comic writers made all those characters into insane, tormented prostitutes just as a reaction. Try reading the first few issues of Daredevil and compare them to his current issues, to see what I mean.

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