DC Comics has shocked the comic book medium with the confirmation this last week of the Before Watchmen "prequels" and an alarming lack of comprehension and respect for comics as an art form. Forgetting about the latest gimmicks of the editorial staff through out the last year, I would consider this a new low for the people that once were at Image robbing ideas (WildC.A.T.s) or almost drove Marvel Comics to bankruptcy (Heroes Reborn), not to mention their egos are flying high on very little merits (merits that should go out to other legendary people in the field). It's not the first time that Jim Lee capitalizes over the work of Alan Moore, since he was the one that made America's Best Comics a success, not Lee as a publisher.
Anyway, for starters, I'm a writer, and from my perspective, it is nearly impossible to write a Watchmen prequel. Call me shortsighted if you will, but the mythology constructed by Mr. Moore is so vast and meticulous, starting in the beginning of the 20th Century, that other than writing about how Hollis Mason was conceived by his parents, I don't see room for growth, we already know what we need to know about the characters from the original 12 issues. Nothing this "geniuses" write will affect in any way the original neutron star-tight Watchmen mythology. Folks, don't let this clowns fool you, what we have is what we call in the biz filler (all fat, no muscle).
"After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original" -Jim Lee & Dan Didio, DC Comics Publishers-Did you now? It is obvious Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison are the best writers DC has to offer right now, why aren't they in on it? Neil Gaiman? Kurt Busiek? Rick Remender? Mark Waid? Warren Ellis? Joss Whedon? Terry Moore? Even Kevin Smith turned the idea down a couple of years ago, and he hasn't put out a decent comic book since his Black Cat/Spidey series, and I'm pretty sure a lot of good folk in the medium did the same, I could bet that most of the names listed above were approached and turned this travesty down. But let's see who is on board:
- J. Michael Straczynski: He is not a bad writer, plus, he even made an excellent Watchmen copycat for Marvel called The Twelve. In all honesty, his work is not nearly as good as its predecessor (and I love the hell out of that comic book, I even wrote about it and interviewed the penciller Chris Weston for Comikaze). JMS may think he can write as well as Alan Moore does, but he has never done it in his whole career.
- Brian Azarello: He is very good, when working with his own creations, but the man has never been strong with franchise characters to begin with, and just like JMS, he thinks he is that good, well, I doubt it.
- Darwyn Cooke: Certainly my favorite of the lot, a man with love for the mythology of the characters, he should know better. His stuff is usually amazing, but still, not one of his works has been a game-changer for the industry.
- Len Wein: The man that called Alan Moore to fix The Saga Of The Swamp Thing (his very own creation) in the first place. Seriously?
I'm not leaving out the pencillers, but their craft is something I can't dissect since I am not good at drawing, and, well, the script is the part of the medium that carries the weight of the piece. I know these cats all want cash, DC is obviously desperate for it, but one thing is to rehash their only parlor trick (multiverse reboot), and a very different one is to take the comic that pushed the envelope for the superhero genre and showed the world that comics is a craft just as relevant as anything else in the world of art! What's next, are they "correcting" Hamlet? Is Rob Liefeld putting shoulder pads and guns to the Mona Lisa? This is not the way to do things, and I am specially disgusted when it comes to putting up the banner of "we are trying to keep the medium alive," if you want to do that, YOU HAVE TO BE CREATIVE, you can't rely on cheap marketing schemes that wear thin every six months. Seriously, DC Comics, you are alienating more fans than the ones you are generating, you are alienating the hardcore fans, the ones that have paid the bills for 40 years.
"I don’t want money, what I want is for this not to happen. As far as I know, there weren't that many prequels or sequels to Moby Dick." -Alan Moore when interviewed by the New York Times-
It takes three to tango in this case, and we should talk about why Mr. Moore deserves better. Many of the defenders of the Before Watchmen gimmick cast stones saying that, well, Moore has worked with many characters created by others, even the Watchmen characters, which are based in Charlton Comics characters. This is all true, but, they are forgetting he always had the consent of the creators (and not one ever objected), he works with public property characters and their creators are gone, and the most important situation, he is not trying to alter or fill-in the original story where the characters were conceived, he has always created a new universe of his own and made an original mythology for them. DC is not incorporating the Crimebusters and the Minutemen into the new 52 scheme with their rebooted origins, they are directly leeching off the original story like parasites.
"The original series of Watchmen is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell. However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire." -Dave Gibbons when interviewed by the New York Times-And then there was Dave Gibbons, the prodigal child with little interest for his legacy. Always cowardly neutral, and obviously partial to the paycheck. He gained notoriety for drawing DC stories that Alan Moore penned, and this is how he reacts. I think that this speaks of how small of a person, an artist, and a friend he is.
Anyway, let's talk about what DC is really concerned with, the bucks. They are putting out the 4 part miniseries Rorschach, Nite Owl, Dr. Manhattan, and Silk Spectre, and the 6 part miniseries the Comedian, Ozymandias,and the Minutemen, all of this issues will include the back-up story Crimson Corsair, plus a one-shot epilogue. 35 issues at $3.99 a piece gives us the grand total of $139.65. You can get a brand new Absolute Watchmen (first printing) for $125.00, the most luxurious printing of the original story (an over-sized hardcover with extras), you do the math... will you be watching out for Before Watchmen???