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The Geek Life: Before Watchmen

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The Geek Life: Before Watchmen

Can it be done?

By Robert T. Trate     April 25, 2012
Source: Mania.com

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. 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 17
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jedibanner 4/25/2012 5:29:39 AM

And in one summer, DC will erase, destroy, annihilate and forever take away EVERYTHING that was magic and one-of-a-kind about Watchmen because of money.

It's like the movies...instead of creating new characters and going forward, they go back to what was great and just add a sequel, add a trilogy, write back-up stories, etc... .

This time, instead of just leaving it as is, they just want to milk that cow out to dry and just destroying what was one unique and special and now making it a money skeem to ''give new life to great characters''...yeah right.

DC won't get one dime from me and anyone who participated in this new series should be a shame.

Roqueja 4/25/2012 6:37:11 AM

I respectfully disagree with ya on this jedi. 

I feel that the characters were so artfully designed that they evoke such emotion at their defense such as yourself, they DESERVE more stories to be told of them.  25 years after the story first came into light readers are still moved by the experience.  It would be a shame to just put the characters on a shelf to collect dust.  Take 'em down and play with them!  Have fun and bring us along for the ride!  Strive to do your very best to do the Watchmen a new storyline.  It's absurd to write more stories about these characters over here, but not these characters over here.  Never these ones.  Every other character ever created for the company, but not those.  What if nobody wanted to expand of the character of Dracula because it would taint the source material?  I await these titles, and hope DC doesn't screw this new line up.

Wiseguy 4/25/2012 7:30:42 AM

I have always felt that too much praise has been laid on this book. Sure Watchmen pulled in people from outside of comics but I just don't think they redefined comics. Comics like most mediums is always changing, it was maturing right before our eyes even before Watchmen. Books like God Loves Man Kills and Squadron Supreme had a bigger impact on me personally as well as some Batman and Daredevil stories amongst others.

jedibanner 4/25/2012 9:25:35 AM

I would respectfully disagree with ya on this Roqueja on the ''deserve'' aspect of it.

I have to admit, the idea to go deeper into a character's past, experiences, etc... is part of the comic medium, always have, always will.

What bigs me is that nothing is special anymore. Nothing can stay just as it is as one special moment in time because now we need sequels...trilogies...a 4th...a 5th...play with the past...then re-do it and then undo-it later on.

That's my beef with this. Instead of just letting it be as it was, now we apparently ''deserve'' more from these characters? When it was written, it was done as an experience as a whole and that was it.

Do I need more of Rorscach? No! He was great in the medium of the comic and should stay there.

Why is it bad to leave some characters as they were created and imagine for yourself? I can guarantee you that whoever writes these new comics of Watchem will NEVER, EVER do justice to how they were created and written. Yes they will try but not with the same frame of mind as the creator (and yes, I know this happens with our comics today like Batman and Spider-man but, they were not written the same and in the same level of quality as Watchmen).

Some things do evolve with time and writting backstories is part of a character but it doesn't apply to every character.

Wiseguy, some feel the impact wasn't as big and some feel it did change the era that it was when it came out. I feel it did changed the medium of comics completelly since finally a material was written in such defined quality and words that it wasn't just a ''vilain of the week'' anymore but a really, really detailed story done in such a way that wasn't really developed yet.

And knowing Alan Moore does not support this new idea 1000000000000% kind of makes it more of a stupid idea to me to continue with this. Sure AM does not rule DC but, his perspective of who the character was when he wrote it will never appear in these new comics.

shame shame shame.

shac2846 4/25/2012 9:56:26 AM

Jedi you do realize Moore has made his career using other peoples characters right? League of Extrodinary Gentlemen, Swamp Thing, his countless DC and Image stories, even the Watchmen characters were Charlston characters he wasn't allowed to used so he made up slightly opposite counterparts. I at least want to see how good the stories are before passing judgement. If the stories are good it won't matter if it's despised and if there not good you still have the original. At first I was against the idea being a big fan of the original but when I read the article with J. Michael Straczynski about the project I wanted to give it a shot. He said "obviously we're big fans of Alan's work but for him to say the characters shouldn't be used is a little hypocrytical given all the other creators works he's used over the years. I think DC  has obviously taken a lot of time in developing out these ideas. The different writers have talked individually about the writers summitts they had and how they used Watchmen as a bible to not stray too far from the original story. I don't think this was pasted together. It was obviously financially driven but again if they make a good product it won't matter. 

Wise, I don't think the praise is undo. And I have a collected edition of God Loves on my shelf and all of the Miller Daredevil stuff collected. Those books are great no doubt (haven't read Squadron Supreme though so can't say on that) and medium was evolving but Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns were the tipping point for the mature direction of comics and while I enjoy God Loves Man Kills very much it just doesn't have the same impact as Watchmen or DKR, at least for me. 

zipahead 4/25/2012 10:24:01 AM

It was going to happen sooner or later.In the history of comics even the flops get rebooted... so its impossible that D.C. wouldn't reboot these characters...and when this reboot gets done their will be another reboot. Sure they won't be as good as the original book but they won't diminish  the original ..I respect Alan Moore, but to expect D.C. not to try to cash in on one of their propreties is dillusional. Look forward to the Watchman vs The Justice League

jedibanner 4/25/2012 10:47:22 AM

shac2846, like I mentionned in my rant (yes, it could be viewed as one but I am perfectly calm....GODDAMMIT!!!), it's not the first time and the last time someone plays with someone else's pool of characters.

My issue is that not every character needs to be developed. You take away what was special by adding more to something that doesn't need to.

Heck, even ''Stan the Man'' Lee has admitted many times he hated, HATED the idea of someone else writting F4 or the Avengers or any other big thing he created.

Does the business of comic make it impossible for most characters to never be developed? yes. I understand and respect the need. My beef is, why must they all?

MadMercutio 4/25/2012 10:48:01 AM

I have mixed feelins about this.  I totally get the "leave the classic alone" type mindset, but just because something else is created doesn't mean it's going to take away from the original.

Take Jane's  Addiction for example.  The band in its heyday was mindblowing good in my opinion.  The latest stuff from them is 25 years removed from the original stuff and lacks the same punch and creativty.  But does "The Great Escape Artist" take away from "Nothings Shocking?"

Nope.  I just won't listen to "TGEA."  If you don't want the new stuff, don't buy it.  Nothing's sacred.  Should it be?  These are just stories about fictional characters doing fictional things.

jedibanner 4/25/2012 11:53:16 AM

Do we really need to go back all the time or add to something that doesn't need to ala ''Titannic 2: the gost of the past'' or a Lord of the Ring: Frodo's 25th birthday or for a billionth time a retelling of Spider-Man's origins like Spider-Man's Origin: Inside the closet or a Hulk: Geek or Dweeb era ???

That's where I believe it WILL take away from the original even if I decide to ignore the new stuff because now people will compare and talk about something that shouldn't.

The obvious choice is to not care and not pay for it...but isn't more fun to talk about it between us geeks???

shac2846 4/25/2012 12:10:32 PM

 zipahead it's not a reboot. There prequel stories that involve the individual characters and what led them to Watchmen. 

Jedi you have some good points and I agree with you but some good stuff has come out of revisiting the past. Rebooting some things like Grant Morrison's take on the Seven Soldiers or a different perspective in comics that we know by memory like what Gotham Central did for batman brought a new dimension to those comics. And if other writers hadn't touched FF and the Avengers the fan's would have misseed out on a lot. Kree Skrull War/Korvac Saga even the Ultimates Version. Hell if the X-men hadn't been revisited by Bryne and Claremont we likely wouldn't even be talking about them today. It's a double sided coin. But for Alan Moore, a writer I have a great deal of respect for, to get bent out of shape because other people are touching his work is dumb to say the least when his portfolio is mostly other peoples work. I mean DC offered to give him the rights to Watchmen back, something he's always wanted, if he would just write a few more stories in the universe. Seems like a small price to pay to get to own the rights to your own work. Something that is scarse these days unless you work for image. And again the stories could all end of being great. Sure the law of numbers dictates at least one of them if not more will be balls but it sounds like the creative team really has their act together on this. As I always do if they come out and suck teets I'll be the first to eat my crow. Still getting my teeth cleaned from the Green Lantern movie claims I made. At least now I know what it tastes like so it won't be so bad the second time around.

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