Tuesday, February 07, 2012

DC's "Before Watchmen" excites some fans, polarizes others

DC Comis recently announced that they would be revisiting the world and characters created by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore in their seminal comic book masterpiece "Watchmen" with an all new prequel starting this summer.

Watchmen, in case you don't know, is one of the most important works in the history of comic books, perhaps the most important. It deconstructs the superhero genre so well, and it is an absolute joy to read from first panel to last.

The new series has polarized the comic book reading public.

More than 1,500 people voted in Digital Spy's exclusive poll, and a whopping 72.7% agreed that the original 12-parter is perfectly self-contained, worrying that the new seven interconnected series will ruin that.

Just 27.3% of the site's readers backed the new books, admitting that they would love to read anything new from the world of Watchmen.

Granted, while this is not a burning journalistic issue, this blog is also about the craft of writing and influences on my writing specifically, and influences on others, and it can be argued that while comic books were viewed by society with some derision during their long history, in recent years they have been mined by Hollywood as fodder for entertainment, some of the best superhero movies have comic books as their foundations, and comics themselves come from a literary genre dating back to the 1930s and 40s, mainly the pulps.

Back to the issue at hand, I tend to agree with those who think it will be a good idea for DC to crate new material based on Watchmen. While I did at first worry that a perfect series such as this should not be tampered, (If you haven't read it, shame on you, go out right now and pick up a copy, it's OK this post will be here when you get back, and no watching the movie does not count!) I am now convinced that we should allow contemporary artists try their hand at crafting some backstory for these wonderful characters, I know if I was a writer assigned to this project, I would be salivating at a shot of playing in this wonderful sandlot.

As an aside, I gave up buying new comics last July. I was a fervent collector, but Marvel has just inflated their prices on new comics so much, that it makes it financially prohibitive for me to dump money on new issues on a regular basis. I still occasionally purchase a series I find interesting, and I think that this might be the series which brings me back to my first literary love.

I mean some of the top talent in comics will be working on this project, the line up reads like a who's who in the industry:


  • 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

Come Summer time, I for one, will be buying and reading these books and basking in the creative after glow of some of the most talented folks who still produce superhero fare. Success or failure, DC should be lauded for trying to take the genre in new creative paths, not condemned for trying to "mess" with a classic.

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