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Wednesday, February 01, 2012 

What is the use of Watchmen prequels?

So now DC's officially announced the prequels they've got in store for Alan Moore's overrated Watchmen from 25 years ago, and if there's any name on the list of assigned writers for the several miniseries they've got planned that's best to avoid, it's J. Michael Stracynski, who'll be writing the Nite Owl mini. The article from Entertainment Weekly veers into sensationalism when it says:
Geekdom, get ready to rumble with excitement… or grumble with outrage. Or both. In an announcement sure to ignite a firestorm of fanboy passion and pique, DC Entertainment revealed today that DC Comics will publish a collection of mini-series that will expand upon the world of Watchmen, the influential superhero saga originally released as a 12-issue maxi-series from 1986 to 1987. Marked by bravura storytelling, provocative politics, and gritty violence, Watchmen is best known for deconstructing superhero archetypes embodied by cultural icons like Superman and Batman. (You can read our 2005 oral history about the genesis, creation, and legacy of the series here.) Why might the new comics be controversial? Because Watchmen’s widely revered writer, Alan Moore, who has long been at war with DC for any number of reasons, has absolutely nothing to do with them.
What if it's controversial because of its leftist bent and a viewpoint that makes it seem as though altruism and heroism is bad? That's what they might mean when they speak of provocative politics, but clearly don't have the courage to openly acknowledge.
Once each series has completed its run, DC will wrap up the initiative with a single issue entitled Before Watchmen: Epilogue, featuring contributions of several different writers and artists. The first issue of the first mini-series will drop this summer, title and date TBD. From there, new issues will roll out each week. In a joint statement, DC Entertainment co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee say the reason why the company is launching Before Watchmen now is because “it’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant. … After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told.”
Unfortunately, the time is long past, but leftists like them don't think so, and it won't be one bit surprising if it's goes even farther with leftist slants than the original mini did. Stracynski is the most likely to do that. There's at least 7 miniseries plus an epilogue special planned, and with that much in store, it's more likely this is an attempt to make a quick buck for the sake of the cottage industry of controversy they and Marvel have been running since the turn of the century.

I'm not happy that Darwyn Cooke is taking part in this either, but I'm willing to give him some credit for telling something I may have noticed about how the younger Silk Spectre was depicted back in the day:
“One of the first things I did was go back through the original book and look at all the female characters and their position in the story and the arcs they had. What I realized is that as much as I really like Laurie, she’s really only just Dr. Manhattan’s girlfriend and then Nite Owl‘s girlfriend. 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.”
I still doubt it'll much better than the original book. I read the Watchmen a couple years ago, and besides the underwhelming role Laurie had in the story, one of the main problems with it was that the whole story was excruciatingly slow, and by the time it concluded, whatever point Moore and Gibbons were trying to make collapsed, or vanished altogether.

J. Michael Stracynski spoke about the books with the Hollywood Reporter, and his statement is even worse:
Heat Vision: How did you become involved with Before Watchmen?

J. Michael Straczynski: The short answer is: I was asked. The long answer: Ever since Dan DiDio was handed the reins (along with Jim Lee) over at DC, he's been making bold, innovative moves that might have scared the hell out of anyone else. At a time in the industry when big events tend to be “Okay, we had Team A fight Team B last year, so this year we’re gonna have Team B fight team C!” Dan has chosen to revitalize lines, reinvent worlds and come at Watchmen head-on. It was, I think, about two years ago that he first mentioned that he was considering the idea, and he’s to be commended for fighting to make this happen. [...]

HV: How did you end up writing Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan? Did you have a say over which characters you would write?

JMS.: I wanted those characters because they are kind of bookends from a power standpoint. Despite his really cool gadgets, Nite Owl is in many ways the closest we have to a regular guy. He’s not a near-nutbar like Rorschach, he’s not the smartest guy in the world like Ozymandius, doesn’t have the powers of Dr. Manhattan...he’s the most normal guy in the bunch and that means he has to work really hard to get things done. By contrast, Dr. Manhattan has nearly godlike powers. So they’re at opposite ends of the power spectrum, and that contrast appealed to me immensely.
And Nite Owl, if memory serves, along with Silk Spectre, kept Ozymandias's use of a radiation bomb secret at the end and didn't tell anyone just what an abominable act he pulled. (And Dr. Manhattan not only followed suit, he wiped out Rorschach with the latter's demand before committing suicide in the orb). I suspect that's part of why JMS chose to write his book because of how Dreiberg's character is otherwise morally weak. As for Dr. Manhattan, since he doesn't really use his own power to really better the world in the end, if he's just as morally weak, that's certainly more in tune to the kind of politics JMS has come to embody, at the expense of his talents. No wonder he's writing his mini too.
HV: Are the prequels all connected?

JMS: There’s some overlap here and there, but it’s more thematic than plot-oriented. I think DC wanted to give each writer the room to really play with the characters he was given without worrying too much about tying it in with everyone else’s story. At some point, the integrity of each of the miniseries would be compromised trying to do that. Instead, we were free to really follow the story of each hero cleanly. One of the things that has bugged me about recent comics publishing “events” is that the individual characters or titles are too often sacrificed to the vested interests of that event; here, DC turned the formula upside down and let the “event” serve the individual characters.

Something I said in the room ended up becoming the thematic core of the series, which is my sense that there are five kinds of truth: the truth you tell to casual acquaintances, the truth you tell to you family and close friends, the truth you tell to only a very few people in your life, the truth you tell yourself and the truth you don't admit even to yourself. So these books are really about what we think we know about these characters, and the truth.
Oh, I'm sure they are. Specifically, leftist-style, that's what. They'll probably just be all about telling us how bad conservatives really are, and why do I get the feeling he's going to turn this into an allusion to 9-11 trutherism?

His claim that DC is allowing events to serve individual characters falls flat too, since their crossovers, just like Marvel's, have only served to make it impossible to develop individual protagonists naturally and plausibly. More likely that DC just offered him what he considered a better deal, so he took up on it.
HV: And if this is successful, will there be a sequel to the prequel? And are there any plans to eventually integrate this universe with the broader DC Universe?

JMS: Both of those are questions for Dan DiDio. I’m just glad to have a chance to play with these characters right now. The future will attend to itself, it always does.
For all we know, it probably won't be with people like DiDio in charge, since his name alone can alienate a lot of readers today. And what if JMS's own work ends up as late on schedule as a few other books he wrote in the yesteryear did? Even if not, chances are fewer people will care about something he's writing now. After all, he was the one who ruined Gwen Stacy's memory in Spider-Man, and his defense that Joe Quesada tampered with the story doesn't help if he stuck around, as he did, till the very painful end.

John Higgins, who's drawing some short stories for these minis written by Len Wein, told the AP Wire:
Looking ahead, Higgins said that even though the Watchmen has become a touchstone for comics and graphic novels, the new series can expand on its mythology.

“The challenge is to make the stories modern and relevant to 2012 and to show what can be done with respect and consideration for the source material that has inspired so many people over the years. By adding to the mythos and not to detract from it,” he said. “’The Watchmen’ had such an influence on graphic storytelling since it first appeared and is a timeless classic. If we can create a new set of stories that can be enjoyed 25 years on, that would be an achievement and a reward in itself.”
And that influence has only been a negative impact on heroism in comics and an increase of late in darkness, violence, and other unpleasant themes in mainstream and indie comics alike. And the stories they're bound to publish that he says are "relevant" are more likely to be ones speaking from leftist anti-war, anti-patriotic and especially anti-heroic viewpoints. With the kind of themes Watchmen embodies, and have since taken their toll on our favorite pastime, I really doubt they'll make much of an achievement to speak of, and not many are going to care in years to come.

As for Alan Moore, he may have disassociated himself from the Watchmen, and he may admit that all his work really led to was stories of joylessness and misery, but if he's still going to hang onto the kind of leftist politics he does, it's uncertain if he ever learned any real lessons.

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Well said! I was suckered into buying Watchmen by a few friends back in 2009 because they told me it was "good" even though I eventually came to realize how much of an overrated leftist screed it truly was. Plus it contributed to the darkness, depression, leftist politics and moral relativism you see in today's comic books. Those very themes are destroying comics. DC obviosly is doing this because they know their reboot isn't doing well and they think because there are so many hipsters out there who love Watchmen because of its "complexity" they'll gobble up the prequels without question. Plus I've lost respect for Moore ever since he sided with the Occupy movement.

Carl.

I've long been puzzled by all the praise Watchmen gets. I'd call it the Plan 9 of graphic novels, but Plain 9 is actually entertaining in a silly way.

My research has lead me to develop a theory concerning the origins of the phenomenon. That is, that the book magically disintegrated the brains of anyone that dared read it. A few lucky victims somehow survived their encounter with its boredom-inducing magicks however. This theory would explain the horrible cold/flu attack I had around the time I read it.

"And Nite Owl, if memory serves, along with Silk Spectre, kept Ozymandias's use of a radiation bomb secret at the end and didn't tell anyone just what an abominable act he pulled. (And Dr. Manhattan not only followed suit, he wiped out Rorschach with the latter's demand before committing suicide in the orb)."

Er... you're a little off in the details there, Avi. You can read the Wikipedia synopsis for the story.

Either way, though, it was all about heroes being downright unheroic, and not much more. Shocking for the time, a lot less so today.

I keep waiting for someone to deconstruct the postmodern superhero and create real, you know, heroes again...

Anon: The thing is, Watchmen came out in the mid-80s when leftist infiltration of comics was still very much in its infancy. I happen to think, despite the leftism, it's a terrific story if just for the outright sheer complexity of it.

I happen to think the prequel idea is a good one. (Post includes a link to a past FCMM post.)

I can see what you're saying, Hube. My views on Watchmen have just largely changed in the past year and a half. Same with my views on Alan Moore, who is a good writer in spite of his politics. I don't know... I don't mind groundbreaking comics here and there, with layers of complexity, but I do prefer classic comics stories such as "The Kree-Skrull War," for instance.

Carl

I own a copy of the Kree-Skrull War myself, and I also find it a lot more enjoyable than much of the storytelling that's come out of mainstream publishing in the past 2 decades.

Same here. It's one of my favorite comic book storylines of all time.

Carl

A hearty AMEN on the Kree-Skrull War, Carl. One of the best stories of all-time, hands down!

Indeed it is, Hube. I can pick it up at any time and read it and still enjoy every page of it.

Carl

Indeed, it's a great article. I've been the Colossus of Rhodey quite a bit too. I especially enjoy the comics section.

Thanks for the support! :-)

Watchmen was a great read back in the day, much like Dark Knight Returns was. But both of them were at least partially successful because they went against the perfect hero stereotype and sadly the comics have spent the last 25 years chasing the sales and mainstream interest those comics generated. It is now to the point where a comic that presented a heroic in every sense hero would probably be perceived as a breath of fresh air except of course by the mainstream media.

I agree, Pat. The mainstream media is pretty obssessed with darker and edgier superheroes and not the classic concepts of yore. I believe that restoring heroic characters would indeed be a breath of fresh air, but it won't happen at all at Marvel or DC. I just hate how the dark comics such as Watchmen have been allowed to dictate the direction the comics industry in general has gone.

Carl

we defiantly need a new neo con superhero since norman osbourne was such a hateful sob

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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