DC Comics teased yesterday that they had a “big announcement” due today, and that big announcement is… prequels to the classic 1985 series “Watchmen.” Pause for reaction.
The new 7-part series, due this summer and called “Before Watchmen,” will follow most of the legendary tome’s characters through their respective evolutions into flawed heroes and the start of “Watchmen” proper.
So, yes, readers will get to see what the Comedian did between torching innocent Vietnamese and getting thrown out a window or how Nite Owl spent his evenings before hooking up with the Silk Spectre. What readers will not get, however, is original “Watchmen” author, Alan Moore, or artist, Dave Gibbons, leaving many to wonder, “What’s the point?”
DC co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee tried to spin the prequels as a way of keeping famous characters fresh and “relevant” after two-and-a-half decades of neglect. “It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant,” they said. “After 25 years the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told.”
Plus, “Watchmen,” one of the most popular and critically acclaimed comic series ever, is a cash cow, and there’s money to be made, so why the hell not, right?
Creator Alan Moore’s pretty pissed off about this latest development, telling the New York Times that DC Comics’ actions are “completely shameless.”
“I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago,” he said.
Moore’s reaction could be expected: he famously rejected any profits form Zack Snyder’s big screen adaptation of “Watchmen,” and is known to turn his back on the comic industry’s capitalist roots, making him — and his “V for Vendetta” version of Guy Hawkes, a perfect patron saint for the international Occupy Wall Street movement.
“I don’t want money,” he said of the new project. “What I want is for this not to happen.”
Original artist Dave Gibbons was more diplomatic than his former colleague, and offered a cold congratulations of sorts: “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.”
Others are more torn on the matter. Jonathan Lethem, author of “Motherless Brooklyn,” told the Times he was initially disgusted by the news. “That story was absolutely consummate and an enunciation as complete as any artwork in any realm,” Lethem remarked of the Cold War-era narrative. “And it’s just inviting a disgrace, basically, to try to extend any aspect of it.”
But he also pointed out to the paper the original Watchmen, which drew on seemingly disparate cultural myths and morals, left room for reinterpretation.
The writers of the new character-specific titles certainly have big plans. Darwyn Cooke, who will pen the Silk Specter issue, wants to shed more light on Laurie’s life as an independent woman: “We never get to see her being self-sufficient and dealing with herself and dealing with her own problems. She’s there for a man. I came up with the idea of looking at the brief period of time when she becomes an adult.”
And Len Wein, head of the new Ozymandias story, offered this thought: “I think reboots are almost mandatory in an industry that has existed for over three-fourths of a century now. The need to inject new blood, new ideas, new approaches, is the only thing that keeps our readers coming back for more.”
Be that as it may, Moore put it well when he remarked, “As far as I know, there weren’t that many prequels or sequels to ‘Moby-Dick.’”
Ultimately, however, Moore’s protests will likely be in vain: whether they like it or not, “Watchmen” fans’ curiosity will get the better of them. DC seems poised to make some serious bank off an old idea.
Here are some images of a few “Before Watchmen” covers, via Bleeding Cool: