It might be outside the usual scope of this blog but how could I not talk about the Watchmen Prequels announced yesterday.
The news is everywhere on the web, too many places to link, but if you head to Bleeding Cool or the DC Source blog I am sure you will get some information. DC is releasing Watchmen prequels, character driven mini-series. Here are the solicitations:
BEFORE WATCHMEN includes:
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
These mini-series have been rumored to be coming out for the last several years and each time the rumbling would boil to the surface a bit, I said the same thing.
"I won't buy them."
Like many comic fans, Watchmen holds a special place in my heart. I consider it the high water mark for comics in general. It is an easy benchmark for comics. "It's no Watchmen." is an easy way of labeling a book as lackluster. Watchmen is a dense, multi-layered, complete story with complex and flawed characters. I have reread the series so many times that I am on my third trade paperback. Each time I read it, I find something new to love about it.
And, as a result of that hallowed status, I didn't want to see it sullied with lackluster sequels or prequels.
"I won't buy them."
The thing is, when I look at these prequels, it is clear that DC decided to attach top flight talent to these books.
I mean Darwyn Cooke on the Minutemen? Cooke and Amanda Conner on Silk Spectre? Adam Hughes on Dr. Manhatten? Azzarello on Rorschach and The Comedian? I mean how can I, as a comic reader, not want to read those books.
So I think I am going to go against my prior thoughts, and buy some of these books.
Does that mean I am selling out? Have I lost my integrity?
Well, the first thing is that I have a track record of waffling on issues like this. So maybe I have some internal barometer that measures the level of integrity I am willing to overlook. Maybe there are some works that I hold high enough that I don't want any taint of an inferior new project to detract.
I didn't read the Brian Herbert Dune books. I thought that story should have ended with Frank Herbert.
I didn't see the recent Thing prequel because the Carpenter movie is extremely beloved in my mind.
I did drop Doom Patrol after Grant Morrison left and Rachel Pollack came on board. But then I came back with Giffen wrote the latest version. Neither have changed my opinion about Morrison's run.
I did drop Swamp Thing when Rick Veitch took over for Alan Moore. But I have sampled other versions of Swampy since then, never sticking around long.
I dropped Miracleman when Neil Gaiman came on board. I have regretted it.
I have puzzled this out all night and basically I have decided.
It's too big for me to figure out.
I can see both sides.
So maybe this is like the Batman in Dark Knight Returns. Like Commissioners Gordon and Yindel dealing with the Batman. This problem of artistic integrity, about sequels and prequels, about concerns of ruining a great work of art with a terrible follow-up, about the nature of these characters and their association with Alan Moore ... is simply too big an issue for me to figure out.
I think my initial worry about these books is that somehow if they were done wrong that it would detract from the original work. Could a lousy prequel ruin the original?
And I think the answer is maybe. But I don't think these books, given the names attached, will be fall that short. Man, I am being wishy-washy about this.
I still enjoy Sean Connery's James Bond despite hating Roger Moore's movies. I hated the Loeb/Joe Kelly Supergirl. That didn't detract from the prior Supergirl stories I loved. I hated the Matrix movie sequels but I still can enjoy the first movie.
But this is different. This is the Watchmen we are talking about. We aren't talking about Moonraker vs. Goldfinger. We are talking about *the* comic book, the big thing.
Well, going back to my first point, I think the talent attached to these books makes a difference. I trust that Azzarello is going to treat Rorschach and the Comedian the right way. I don't think I would buy a Rob Liefeld Comedian book. I wouldn't buy an Ed Benes Silk Spectre book. I wouldn't read a Judd Winnick Ozymandias book. Heck, I am staying away from the JMS Nite Owl book because I haven't particularly liked a JMS book in some time. (Hughes' art trumps my dislike of JMS on the Manhatten book.) I would stay away from any Watchmen that did not bring a high caliber of talent to the table.
Do I think it is lousy that Moore has gotten something of a raw deal by DC when it comes to Watchmen. Yes.
Do I think that these books will not achieve the high level that Watchmen has in my mind. Yes. It is the high water mark for a reason.
But do I think these particular books are going to be good books worth reading? I think that answer is yes too. I trust Cooke. I trust Azzarello. I love Conner and Bermejo and Hughes and JG Jones.
All that said, I am worried about the upcoming Blade Runner prequel because the original Blade Runner movie is absolutely beloved by me.
Plus ... this is the Watchmen!
And will these stories add anything to these characters that I need to know?
But does Moore get to be so haughty about these characters when he has been using other people's characters in Lost Girls and Extraordinary Gentlemen?
It's too big.
Watchmen is too big.