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The Geek Life: Before Watchmen
Can it be done?
By Robert T. Trate
April 25, 2012
Can Before Watchmen beat 26 years of praise?
© DC Comics/ Warner Brothers
The Geek Life is a weekly look at what is going on in the Geek Culture. Movies, Comics, Books, Video Games, and TV Shows encompass more than just release dates and reviews. This week the Geek Life talks Before Watchmen.
We can all remember the first time we picked up The Watchmen. After that comics were never ever the same. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons almost made all the other comic heroes seem childish. They painted a dark world where being a “superhero” was not without its down sides. It changes every comic book reader that picks it up for the first time; an accomplishment to be sure as the story itself is now over 25 years old. The book changed the way comics were made and continues to do so. However, its characters only have 12 issues. That’s 12 comic books or one collected graphic novel. The likes of Batman and Superman have countless stories and books about them. The Watchmen have only 12, until now.
If you are a fan of comics and The Watchmen then you know where this week’s Geek Life is heading. This summer, DC Comics is releasing Before Watchmen, a prequel to the events of Alan Moore’s classic story. This has the comic book community and the internet blazing with talk. Some call it sacrilegious, others call it a travesty, and yet others welcome the idea.
Last weekend at the Los Angeles Festival for Books at the University of Southern California, Co-Publishers of DC Entertainment, Dan Didio and Jim Lee sat down and discussed why DC has brought back the Watchmen. Jim Lee described his original impressions of Watchmen (and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns) as “game changers”. They were the very best of “meta-fiction” and completely submersed in the world which Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons had created. This was something completely new and and more appealing as an adult. The comics of the day were just remnants of his childhood. “This was just something you didn’t see in main stream comics”.
When it came to the reasons of why to do Before Watchmen, Didio and Lee had well thought-out answers. These were two fans who had successfully gotten into the position to make these new stories a reality. I am sure that they have a great love of the characters but it really seemed as if it came down to the business of comics. They are, after all, publishers and creators and want to stay in the business of comics. Didio stated that The Watchmen is one of DC Comics biggest successes. It has been a best selling graphic novel for over 20 some odd years. However when that first trailer of the film was released, DC Comics sold one million copies. They tried to get readers and new fans into other books “like Watchmen” and they failed to grab new readers. It was clear that the new audience wanted more Watchmen stories.
Lee and Didio both know that they and DC Comics will be scrutinized for this decision. Yet they have assembled a great creative team, have great established characters, and plan on delivering for all the fans. Of course tackling something as sacred as The Watchmen is going have controversy. It just wasn’t something they were going to shy away from. Jim Lee stated at their first meeting (over two years ago) that their motto was “no fear”.
Most (if not all) comic book characters go through a cycle of evolution. They are established by one creative team and then are passed on. Batman and Superman have had numerous creators for both the written word and the art. Should the Watchmen have only 12 stories with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons as sole contributors? Imagine if Spider-Man had only Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Would the character have ever evolved, developed, or become the iconic hero we all know and love today? Yet Watchmen has that stigma, it is clearly Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The creative team that Didio and Lee have assembled are some of the most hailed names in comics. Is it time for new writers and artists to add to their mythology?
When it comes down to it, I find the idea of Before Watchmen enticing. It has been 26 years since the likes of Rorschach and the Comedian have had new stories. Sure, there have been hints of what happened before and clues to their life before the doomsday clock was at set to 4 minutes. If this idea of more Watchmen stories is appalling, then by all means don’t read them. Only you can make the choice as to where you spend your money. The reason I want to read these stories is for the gamble. This isn’t just discovering some old Bob Kane hero and writing a new tale for him in today’s DC Universe. No, this is about tackling one of the greatest comics books of all time and writing a new chapter.
Robert Trate writes three weekly columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.