After doing a frankly terrible job at concealing their intentions, DC Comics finally announced today their plans to release a series of prequels to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal series Watchmen.
Initially created as a 12-issue miniseries in 1986 and 1987, Watchmen has since been acknowledged by a wide body of comic readers as the greatest graphic novel of all time, though a more accurate assessment would be to call it one of the greatest superhero stories of all time. The combination of outlandish costumes, cold-war intrigue and insightful interpretations into superhero archetypes were revolutionary at the time but often inaccessible to readers not fully-versed in the language of superheroes as popularised by DC and Marvel.
Since 1986 and the decline of the Comics Code of Authority, the biggest limiting factor in superheroes being used to tell stories for mature readers, the standard of superhero writing has risen dramatically. From Warren Ellis’ The Authority to Mark Millar’s The Ultimates readers have grown accustomed to experiencing adult stories told through superhero ciphers and Warren Ellis went on to completely deconstruct the pulp trappings of the superhero in his groundbreaking series Planetary. While Watchmen still holds a special place in many peoples’ hearts it no longer stands alone as the one great superhero story, except for in the biased views of people that believe Alan Moore can do no wrong.
The truth is that the 2009 film-adaptation by Zack Snyder was probably the most faithful live-action adaptation of a comic book ever filmed, so beholden was Snyder to the source material, but the Watchmen film received a mixed critical reception and failed to set the box office on fire. In the 21st century Watchmen simply doesn’t hold the same groundbreaking qualities that it once did. Alan Moore takes every opportunity possible to mock DC for still mining ideas that he has 25 years ago and he’s right to do so, not because they’re morally bankrupt (they’re a business, so that’s a given) but creatively blinkered.
Before Watchmen is the banner title that DC have announced they’ll be using this summer to collectively describe their Watchmen prequels. Seven inter-connected series created by some of the brightest lights in mainstream superhero comics, all building up towards the story that readers hold so dear. Each week will see the release of a new issue and each issue will contain a back-up story called Curse of The Crimson Corsair. Why anybody, even a Watchmen fan, would want to read more of those awful metatextual pirate back-up stories I can’t even imagine, but go figure.
BEFORE WATCHMEN will include:
- 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
Regardless of the merit of the original series there can be no denying that DC have enlisted some of the most brilliant creators of their respective generations for this controversial spectacle. I will happily eat my own face if Darwyn Cooke turns in a single bad comic as part of this project, however outraged the internet may be, and while I can’t see him being a great fit for Ozymandias in particular I have been waiting since his Stephen King: Dark Tower adaptations to see more sequential work from Jae Lee.
From start to finish this is a financial decision, which differs from Marvel and DC’s chronic inability to give credit to Jack Kirby for his large hand in creating their universes NOT ONE BIT. People that have no problem buying comics based on Kirby’s work, knowing that he sees not a penny for those new comics, are in outrage about Watchmen, damning DC and all involved. Idiots. I don’t care very much about Watchmen but the fact that DC are milking their mainstream, corporate characters doesn’t bother me at all. The only surprise here is that they’ve managed to put it off for this long.
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