It was the second earthquake for the comic book world in as many years.
On the heels of this past May's announcement (and launch in August) of renumbered DC Comics titles, the company (which is owned by Time Warner, also owner of CNN) announced Wednesday a miniseries of books falling under the banner "Before Watchmen."
"After 25 years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original," DC Entertainment co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee said.
Debate erupted on Twitter, other social networks and message boards over this development.
The project, to be written and drawn by big names such as J. Michael Straczynski, Brian Azzarello and Darwyn Cooke, is a prequel to one of the most highly regarded comic book miniseries of all time.
"Watchmen" was named one of the 100 greatest English-language novels of all time by Time magazine. It spawned an extremely faithful film adaptation in 2009. It may have even been quoted in a Supreme Court nomination hearing (the question asked pre-dates the comic).
"Watchmen," with its story of superheroes long past their prime, dealing with a world on the brink, didn't just show the uninitiated that comics could be "literature." It revealed to longtime comic book readers what the medium was capable of doing.
"[Writer] Alan Moore and [artist] Dave Gibbons tested a lot of new storytelling formats in 'Watchmen' that we take for granted now, especially with the book's multiple layers of stories within stories," said freelance writer and "professional geek" Rick Marshall.
"The fact that you can remove various narratives in the book - like the 'Black Freighter' story, for example - and read them perfectly well on their own or in the greater context of the book is fairly unique. And there are lots of other subtle elements of the story that set it apart, and only reveal themselves after you've read it a few times. It approached its subject matter in a way that few others had ever done, with equal parts cynical analysis and nostalgic celebration."
Chris Clements, a comic book collector who hails from Moore's homeland of England, said, "You will struggle to find a reader that won't put it in their top list of graphic novels. I've used it recently to draw people who would normally be interested in the likes of Spider-Man and Superman into comics."
Clements described himself as "cautiously optimistic" about the prequels.
However, the original miniseries is so beloved by readers, the thought of writing more stories has some fans crying foul.
"I'm kinda dubious," tweeted @snapdragon76. "Granted the creative teams are impressive, but I'm kinda uncertain about the whole thing."
"The most utterly unnecessary project in comics today," Daniel Ben-Zvi tweeted.
John Mayo – who, along with fellow Comic Book Page podcaster Bob Bretall, read "Watchmen" when it was first released in 1986 – called the prequels an "unwise move," creatively, by DC.
"Who knows? It could be even better than 'Watchmen,' but I have a hard time imagining the prequel will even measure up to the original series, much less surpass it," he said. "The risk of tainting the reputation of the original series is very real. The inferior sequel to 'The Dark Knight Returns' caused some lasting damage to the reputation of the original miniseries."
Bretall is conflicted: "I liked 'Watchmen' and will check out the prequel, but don't have a solid feeling that DC will knock it out of the park. I'll get the first issue, but I'm not counting the calendar days waiting for its release."
"It's just difficult to get behind the new line at this point," said Marshall, who plans to read the books, "and see it as anything but a supply-and-demand decision rather than something that adds to the 'Watchmen' universe that Alan and Dave created."
Atlanta comic book reader David Burns admitted that he would pick up the books out of curiosity, as well: "While I'm excited to see more about the past of these characters, I'm also not sure there is a need to revisit the series."
"The original 'Watchmen' left just the right amount of the past to the imagination," he said.
Those opposed to the prequel's release often cite Moore (who was vehemently opposed to the film adaptations of "Watchmen," as well as his "V for Vendetta," among other things) and his feelings about the project. In two words, he described it as "completely shameless." The legendary comics writer told The New York Times, "I don’t want money. What I want is for this not to happen."
On the other hand, Gibbons lent his support, albeit tempered, to "Before Watchmen" in DC's news release: "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."
Straczynski, who is working on both the four-issue "Nite-Owl" and "Dr. Manhattan" miniseries, posted a lengthy response to fans on Facebook, in which he criticized Moore's reaction.
"Alan himself floated an idea about doing a 'Minutemen' prequel back in 1985," he said. "Alan didn’t walk away from 'Watchmen' for artistic reasons, he walked away over contract language regarding ownership issues. It was a contract dispute. In time that morphed into something else, but that was not what happened at the time."
Straczynski said Moore's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" series was based on already existing literary characters.
"One ends up on a slippery moral slope to say that all of these other writers' characters are fair game but Alan’s characters are sacred on a moral or emotional basis."
For his part, Straczynski said the talents of those involved in the project ultimately persuaded him to do it.
"These were, and are, some of the brightest lights in the comic business. (And me, holding up the rear.) Listening to Brian [Azzarello], I frankly thought I should be sitting at the children’s table, not here. And beside me was Len Wein, who was involved with the original 'Watchmen' books. Amazing."
Marshall responded to outraged fans this way: "I don't think there are any books - or movies or music, for that matter - that are truly sacrosanct. A great story will always win out and mitigate any concerns that fans had about the project."
Like many newer fans of "Watchmen," 21-year-old avid comics reader Abbey Wright-Geddes from Northville, Michigan, first learned about the franchise when the movie came out. She immediately devoured the books after seeing it.
"I think 'Watchmen' changed the image of the superhero. We usually see the costumed, buff and handsome superhero saving the city every day and getting the girl. 'Watchmen' showed us the darker side," she said.
She is genuinely excited to read the new stories. "I was sad to find out about the controversy around Alan Moore and how he did not support the idea, but I have faith the comics will provide some interesting background at the least," she said.
One thing on which all seem to agree is that the new stories will almost certainly be a runaway success for DC, at least initially.
"[The original] is an amazing read and sold incredibly well," said Kyle Puttkammer, who owns the Georgia comic book store chain Galactic Quest. "I expect with the creative talents on these new books, they'll be a 'must-read.'"
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Funny how much more imaginative ol’ Hal beeomcs when there’s a really first-rate artist drawing him though, isn’t it? I have only a handful of GL back issues, but even these yield plenty of examples of him conjuring up stuff that is far more elaborate and surreal than strictly needed for the job at hand. Gil Kane has him create a giant human hand (complete with fingernails) to pick someone up, a springy mattress to break someone’s fall and a flying desk fan to deflect some acid in GL number 11 from 1962. When the same artist needs Hal to scoop up some spilt oil from the ocean’s surface in GL 73 seven years later, he does so with an enormous walnut shell.During Neal Adams’ run on the book, GL would frequently make a winged horse to transport Green Arrow and other pals through the air, as he does in issues 78 and 83 from 1970 and 1971 resepectively. With Adams’ help, Hal also manages a powerful pressure clamp to repair a broken damn (GL/GA 84), a massive distorted caricature of himself while high on heroin (GL/GA 85) and a pair of twin gorillas to juggle some crooks (GL/GA 86).
One of the things that I find so odd about the controversy with DC's new Watchmen prequels is that the original storyline was loaded with flashbacks and references to the various characters past experiences. It constantly bounced backwards/forwards in terms of timeframes for dramatic effect. At the very least, you'd have to admit that the original naturally opens the door to the idea of prequels. It's not a forced concept due to the storytelling devices in the original.
Will give it a chance and see if it flies. Worst case, I will purge my brain of its existence ... so there really was a Matrix 2 and 3?
same thing with SW Episodes 1-III
For being "extremely faithful" to the comic, the movie missed the main point of the book by putting so much action in it, the initial fight scene in the movie completely contradicted the intent of the book.
Odd that they cite the black freighter thing as one of its positives, as that was the one part of the entire work that I still do not understand at all.
As to the prequels, I'm not a huge comic guy so I don't have much of an emotional stake in the universe, but it still seems like a pretty blatant money grab to me. I've no doubt the artists involved are excited and genuine in their desire to produce a worthy successor, but the whole thing reads to me like a CEO look at some plunging profits, so he found something with an established audience he could exploit and managed to convince the talent that he actually cared about the story.
The black freighter was a comic written by the author that was featured in news stories as being missing throughout the book. SPOILER ALERT – he was one of the people that orchestrated the "alien attack" and was then subsequently killed by Ozymandias in order to ensure silence.
You had me at Azzarello.
To me this is a non issue. D.C. owns the rights to the story and can do with it what it pleases. Moore's criticisms seems a bit hypocrtical given that he has done exactly the same thing that he is complaining about. He has taken other people's character and written stories that probably would have made those authors roll in their graves.
I agree Joe. Alan Moore cannot have it both ways. He has used characters from Bram Stroker and Arthur Conan Doyle too. Moore is being hypocritical.
Did anybody at the company ask Alan Moore's permission? They knew what he would say. Leave things alone. Commerce will win out over art and creators be damned! Too bad.
Actually, the did. The offered him a lot of money but at this point in his career Alan Moore avoids major companies at all turns.
Anything that puts Malin Ackerman in a latex suit can't be all bad.
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They can try whatever they want to rejuvinate comics. I thought they killed the whole thing off around 1996 anyway – the whole business died to me. It stopped being about story and became a bunch of splash pages of buff guys posing at one another while throwing out one-liners. And the alternated covers, special hologram covers, trading cards included in a sealed bag, etc etc... It became a money-making scam that used children's love of the fantasy story to milk them dry as adults. When someone announces that the next issue is a collector's item, you know it won't be worth more than the price printed on the cover. I started collecting when comics were just about telling a good story, not about having a collector's item that may be worth a bunch someday (but never is). I have continued to slowly collect comics since the mid to late 90's, but the only ones I'm buying are pre-1995. So again... if they want to focus on story, have at least six panels on a page, not make it look like stupid anime or cartoon art, and not have it look like the whole thing was created in Photoshop, I might give it a look, but I lost my taste for new comics a long time ago. Hopes are not high.
Wow. Yes, the era of the 90's was a lot as you describe, however, mid 2000's things started changing. Ever read the new X-Force? You should. Amazing story. Or the new Batman and Robin? Good stuff as well. By blanket statement alone you disregard a LOT of things that have happened in the comics worlds. Yes, so books are all flash and no substance, but you need to take a look at the books that really delved into character development.
Two issues – Watchmen was NOT a comic book or comic series, it was a serialized graphic novel.
And yes, Virginia, they are not the same thing.
And secondly, the film version was not all that faithful to the source, particularly near the end.
A graphic novel is a thicker comic book. Only difference is size.
Uh – it was a comic book.
Yeah, sorry, nice try but you're wrong. It was a comic book series. You know how I know? Because it came out in a series of comic books. A graphic novel is a long comic book telling a single story. A comic book is generally a 22-page story told in sequential illustrated panels. If you collect them, it's a trade paperback. So Watchmen was a comic book, and when the series is collected it's a trade paperback.
The ending of the film was better than the ending of the book, just my opinion.
Serialized graphic novel = comic book.
next thing that will come out will be a movie...how absurd.
remarkable theres even a sequel since the first movie stunk
I love that all the illiterates show up to deride Watchmen as a 'comic book'. They betray their ignorance. A. Moore is a brilliant story teller and Gibbon's artwork is fantastic. Sadly, without A. Moore's involvement, any new Watchmen project is doomed to mediocrity. Why not come up with something original instead of riding around on Moore's coattails?
It was a comic book. Period. Maybe you feel better about yourself for calling it a "graphic novel," but you're only fooling yourself.
Give me a break. Save the snobbery for somewhere else.
It was a comic book. Honestly, I thought Dark Knight Returns was
a lot better than Watchmen. Watchmen is highly overrated.
Also, it obviously wasn't quoted in the Kagan hearings. "Who watches the watchmen?" is an age-old saying, and nobody would reasonably think they were referring to the graphic novel or the movie "The Watchmen" in that hearing. I mean, seriously?
Did you know Justice Kagan made reference to my own graphic novel, "The Role of Precedent" in the hearings? An untrained ear might have thought she was just talking about the role of precedent in the judiciary, but I can tell she was giving a nod to my tightly-paced legal thriller.
Thank you for posting this and saving me the trouble.
So many of these Comics are really telling true stories of the under world of super spies and the intelligence operations done by countries over the last two thousand years....Alexander asked the Gods for help using prophets....and that still happens even today...Remote Viewers, Men who stare at goats, radiomen...the Germans had theirs..the Cold War had theirs...real people being glorified in Comics...
:Not like other ancient cueurtls, foods was normally plentiful in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians relied on the yearly flooding of the Nile to produce fertile lands that yielded crops that fed the masses. Scenes of animal husbandry and butchery, were a fixture on the walls of Egyptian tombs. No much less unusual, are scenes of fishing and fishermen along with images and hieroglyphs about the preparation of fish for eating, and pictures of birds and foul staying plucked and preserved.
Time magazine didn't list this as one of the 100 best novels of all time, it listed it as one of the 100 best written since 1923, the beginning of Time magazine. Ie. the "since the beginning of Time". Just read the link you put in the article.
I never read the comic, but did watch the movie. Are others agreed that the movie was 'extremely faithful'? I thought the movie was 'extremely boring'.
The movie was awful.
Anyone who thinks Watchmen is better than From Hell hasn't read From Hell and doesn't understand the medium.
Oh no, a bunch of nerds stuck in junior high school are upset over a comic book! Stop the presses!
Agreed. Couldn't. Care. Less.
Oh, no. An ex-jock who vicariously lives out his glory days by sitting on a stained couch in his underwear watching sports he is no longer in shape to play. Go back to belch, farting and beating your wife, plowboy.
Looks like Dave hit a nerve. You can almost hear the tears running down this one's face.
The only thing Dave222 "hit" was your Mother during date night and out you came. And yes, I had tears just streaming down my face after reading his post. Streaming tears....like you must be used to....except they're not tears...and they're in your mouth. Only reason I can think for you to stick up for the fat slob is Stockholm Syndrome.
nice! like he said.
Ya know what's dumber than "comic book nerds?" A "comic book nerd" critic.
JMS will be back in a format I can access?? WHOOOOHooooo ... as the mother of the original "keeper of the bears" I am delighted! (and those 3 bears still hold a place of honor in our home)
Rorschach was awesome
Then why are you here? Go Troll somewhere else.
i just wanna see some more screwing in the new stuff. that cool pot smokin nineteen sevendies type of bangin' yoouuuusshhh
Why dont some of you put as much thought into who you cast your presidential vote for? That being said, of course it is to line their pockets. People make movies to earn money. Other people watch movies to be entertained. Id love to see another Watchmen movie because I want to be entertained. Fanboys just need to relax and enjoy.
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Not from that era, can't relate to it. Can see it's good but not feel that it's good. Have even less interest in non-Moore additions.
Wake me when someone tackles an issue from my time, I'm going to chill over here reading New Guardians and X-23.
A prequel to a stand alone graphic novel, great idea, it worked so well for the Star Wars saga. Thanks WB for using your "news" *cough* outlet/subsidiary to plug what will esentially be storyboard toillete paper.
Is this the most number of rsesonpes a post has received since tcj.com changed? If so, that's really sad. Even if not, it's still sad.Look, I still like and read superhero comics (though very, very few current ones) but I don't come to here to read praise/criticism/mocking/whatever of them. I come for Johnny Ryan interviews and reviews of Chris Ware digital comics I hadn't heard of anywhere else.But the number of comments certainly proves that posts like this result in page views, so I guess the TCJ New 52 mini-site will be up any day now.
DC lost its way in the early 90's and has never found itself. I don't care if they make this or not, if it's any good or not, or whether fans read it or not. DC is one of the most reliably bad comic book publishers in existence, despite the fact that they have a long and impressive list of heroes to work with.
Image is a great way for independent artists and writers to find an outlet without signing their creations away, but you can't tell me Image has a worse great comic to failure ratio than DC.
Alan Moore is so focused on leaving originals untouched. I once offered him re-heated left-over meatloaf for lunch, and he punched me in the ads.
Leaving aside the artistic merit of Watchmen (although I believe it to be very high – I would call it the Citizen Kane of comic books) I'm personally opposed to prequels and sequels to ANYTHING. It's always all about commerce, never about art. If the artistic team assigned to this series is so great, can't they come up with something new?
It's a comic book. Who could possibly care this much?
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Holy Means Absolutely Nothing Batman!
Here is a novel idea. If the new stories threaten your little egg shell reality so much, don't read them.
This is an abomination! There is absolutely no need to go back into this series. No questions left unanswered, no history left to be written that will add anything but confusion to the original. This is purely about lining their pockets at the expense of a great work of comic.book history.
"This is purely about lining their pockets at the expense of a great work of comic.book history."
You understand this is the purpose of ALL comic books? Even your "great work of comic book history". Stop being so puritanical.
yeah you must be an automaton... Most great writers, artists don't do it for money. They do it to share with the world. It's only the goons they sign with that are in it to line their pockets. Don't belittle what you don't understand.
Okay, Levi. Go ahead and believe that. While I do not understand "art", nor would I attempt to belittle it as you say, I certainly understand the need to make money.
I did not read the printed version, but when I read about how important the layout was I watched the movie as I would read a comic. I kept the text on the screen, read every word, and I repeatedly paused to look at the details contained in various frames. You would not randomly ignore a comic book frame, so I paused often to peruse the visual content. It was rewarding. Everything was relative to the story. I cannot comment on the original, but the seeing the film as I did was very rewarding – one one of the best I have seen. I repeated the experience with the director's cut.
Read a book.
I read a LOT more than most people. I just did not read the Watchmen series.
It's a comic book, calm down.
I agree that I face this with "cautious optimism". I have longed for more creations in this universe since I first read the miniseries many years ago, and have sometimes cursed both DC and Alan Moore (and his beard) for having the falling-out that denied us any further look at these brilliant, disfunctional characters.
Luckily, DC has been giving creators a huge amount of freedom to tell new and exciting stories with their New 52 (read Animal Man if you don't believe me), so that bodes well for this project. Let the creators play in this universe that Moore and Gibbons gave to us, and Before Watchmen may turn into a true work of art.
Thank you for your comment, Bob.
Point taken, that has been amended.
Even as amended, it's still like saying that Obama is quoting me when he quotes MLK because I once wrote a poem in middle school that directly quoted MLK.
I'd be surprised if the Senator had ever even heard of Watchmen. This is just silly.
You're embarrassingly wrong that Watchmen was quoted in the Kagan hearing. 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?' (translated as Who will watch the watchmen/watchers?) is a 2,000 year old saying that is often cited with respect to government authority and oversight (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quis_custodiet_ipsos_custodes). Moore was drawing inspiration from this oft contemplated question rather than creating the phrase anew.
An important mgsease from Roy Thomas:ALTER EGO #101 will cost just the usual $7.95 for its 80 pages not the $19.95 that was accidentally printed by Diamond in its solicitation for the issue! The latter pricetag was erroneously carried over from the price of the double-size #100 the previous month. We wouldn't want fans of the medium to miss Ken Quattro's masterful study of the Superman vs. Wonder Man lawsuit of 1939, reporting and analyzing the testimony of Will Eisner, Jerry Seigel, Victor Fox, Harry Donenfeld, and other or our re-presentation of Richard Kyle's acclaimed 1961 article The Education of Victor Fox, about the company that gave us Blue Beetle, Phantom Lady, The Flame, Fletcher Hanks' Stardust, et al. plus the second half of Jim Amash's interview with comics writer & animator Jack Mendelsohn, and features by Michael T. Gilbert, P.C. Hamerlinck (Fawcett Collectors of America), and Bill Schelly! Tell your local dealer the price is just $7.95, not $19.95!
What are they going to explore? When the comedian became a rapist?
Maybe backstory on Dollar Bill? Poor Dollar Bill... 🙁
So everyone’s up in arms and conflicted (including Jonathan Lethem) about DC Comics’ plans to release various Watchmen prequels. Alan Moore told the New York Times that the idea is “completely shameless” and pointed out that there were no sequels to Moby Dick (which I think is a bit much, but that’s the way he expresses himself). And of course he’s correct, but, at the same time, I can’t pretend I won’t avidly read the new stuff.
There’s a genuine issue here: it’s the same dilemma David Fincher faced (and talked about) when he agreed to make Alien 3.
On the one hand, the thing probably shouldn’t exist. There’s certainly no reason for it to exist…the audience wasn’t asking for it, and the original creators are indifferent at best and hostile at worst. So probably the best thing would be to just forget it, and leave the original alone.
On the other hand, once you accept that it WILL exist, and you’re actually facing the challenge of making it, suddenly things get interesting, because the near-impossible creative challenge might result in something very good. (Or, as Fincher said about Alien 3, “It could be cool. Don’t you think it could be cool?”) (Most people don’t think that Alien 3 turned out well, but I think that was because of studio meddling and Fincher — because it was his debut feature — not being given enough freedom to do it the way he wanted.)
Neil Gaiman’s “Golden Age” follow-up to Moore’s Miracleman faced the same problem. The “Miracleman” story was perfectly complete, and there was absolutely no internal or formal reason to continue. I, personally, thought that going forward with the story (after Moore’s amazing ending) was going to completely ruin the whole project. But Gaiman somehow managed to turn his “Miracleman” sequel into something incredible. It was a tour-de-force act of writing: just like Fincher, he had to go back to a well that had already run dry and somehow get water from it…and he pulled it off.
The obvious difference is that Alan Moore wanted this to happen — wanted Gaiman to continue the story — and formally handed over the reins. But this is an “external” difference, not an “internal” one. Clearly, Moore went ahead and finished “Miracleman” without the slightest attempt to leave anything left over; he wrote just as uncompromising an ending as he provided for “Watchmen.” He didn’t do anything to make it easier for Gaiman…he just “endorsed” Gaiman’s follow-up.
So that’s the situation with “Watchmen”: on the one hand, it’s over and there’s absolutely no need to add to it (and lots of reasons not to). But, once you accept the concept of it happening (as a hypothetical abstraction) it becomes a very interesting logic puzzle and a great writer’s challenge…and that’s why I’ll definitely read this stuff.
Can I buy some pot from you?
China called. They want their wall back.
On the other hand...blog much?
Straczynski is awesome so this will be AT LEAST decent.
Are the prequels an "unwise move" by DC, as quoted above? Technically, to expand on what I really meant was that they seem to be unwise creatively, since the chance of them being held up to future generations as the pinnacle of comics like the original is unlikely.
As a money maker for DC and a fat paycheck for the creators involved, they are likely a wise move. They will no doubt make DC money and will subsequently be able to be collected in trade paperback form where they can be racked on the bookshelf next to the original. They will make the transformation from comic book mini-series to "Graphic Novel" like the original and will have a long sales life.
Standing on their own, with the talent involved they'll likely be perfectly fine comics. That said, I'd rather see that particular batch of creators reaching deep down & creating this generation's Watchmen instead of revisiting characters from 25 years ago, but the public likes sequels, so have at it. It will make money.
If anything is "completely shameless," it's Alan Moore himself. That's why we love him, and will probably love any well meaning and dedicated project arising from his 'original' works.