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Who Will Watch “Before Watchmen”?


Splash of the MAD Watchmen parody- Art by me, words by Des Devlin

No one can say that comic book fans aren’t a passionate bunch. There has been so much commentary on DC Entertainment’s announcement of a new series of stories featuring the characters of the beloved Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon‘s classic Watchmen, that I can’t even begin to link to them. Here’s a story on it that made CNN. Much of it is outrage over messing with such an icon part of comic book history as Watchmen.

My take: calm down. They are just comics.

I actually don’t understand the venom. There is no “messing” going on with the original Watchmen. Not one single word, panel or page in that incredible piece of work is going to be changed, altered or otherwise manipulated. If so much as a single line was going to be altered in a “new” edition that would tie it in with any of the new stories, I’d be grabbing my pitchfork and torch.

But, it’s not. Watchmen remains Watchmen.

These are simply a series of new stories featuring these characters by different creative teams. That is hardly a new thing in comics. In fact, every 10 years or so everything gets a “reboot”, and new creative teams come and go in the meantime. Sometimes they do things I don’t like with the characters I love. My reaction is to stop buying those comics. Batman’s newest incarnation doesn’t change a word or page or panel of the Denny O’Neal/Neal Adams era Batman that I grew up with and consider the definitive version of the character. Before Watchmen are just new stories, and if you find they are great then enjoy them. If you think they are terrible, don’t buy them. It’s not like DC is redoing the last Watchmen book and making sure Ozymandias fired first.

What I find most ironic about the criticism leveled at DC for what some amount as sacrilege toward someone else’s creations is that Watchmen was based on a series of old and silly comic book characters in the first place… so Moore was “messing” with some else’s creations from the beginning. In fact, the best known of Moore’s work is mostly revamping and reinventing existing characters: Swamp Thing, Marvelman/Miracleman, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell. Great work, all of it, but not his characters.

Anyway, I intend to give Before Watchmen a chance. Just like any other comics I get, if they tell me an engaging story and stay true to the complex characters Moore wrote, I’ll enjoy them.

In the meantime, MAD has posted their parody of the original Watchmen comic on The Idiotical. Great stuff from Des Devlin, Glean Fabry and John Higgins, with an exclusive cover from Dave Gibbons. Well worth the read:

 

One Response to “Who Will Watch “Before Watchmen”?”

  1. Mark Engblom says:

    I’m completely fine with the Watchmen prequels…especially with some of the top-notch talent involved. It’s a gutsy move by DC…and there are a thousand ways they can screw these up…but I’m also willing to give them a chance (especially the Minutemen stuff by Darwyn Cooke). Alan Moore is a genius…but, unfortunately, he’s also a rank hypocrite. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of his “Lost Girls” project, but let’s just say he did stuff with J.M. Barrie’s Wendy, Lewis Carrol’s Alice, and L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy that all three authors would be horrified by (well, perhaps not Carrol). Defenders of Moore site that all three works were in the public domain, completely missing the point that Moore has used someone else’s characters to create new material (and make money from it, of course). Oh, and according to the Wiki article on “Lost Girls”, “Wendy” is married to a man named “Harold Potter”. So much for the public domain defense.

 

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