Wednesday, 6 June 2012


DC Comics is doing the unthinkable.  This week they’re launching Before Watchmen, a multi-issue prequel to the seminal superhero comic-book by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.  It’s comprised of seven separate miniseries and a one-shot epilogue, and will unfold over the next thirty-five weeks.   DC has assembled a formidable team of talent to tackle the project, including writers Darwyn Cooke and J. Michael Straczynski , and superstar artist Adam Hughes.  These guys are among the best in the business, but that doesn’t change the fact that Before Watchmen is ill-conceived and utterly blasphemous.

The original Watchmen, released as a 12 issue limited series between 1986 and 1987, is arguably the medium’s crowning achievement.  Time Magazine listed it as one of the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923 (the year Time was founded).  It has influenced an entire generation of creators, and managed to endure a quarter-century without falling prey to the kind of sequels and spin-offs that has become the industry's backbone.  The big-screen adaptation by Zack Snyder is one of the highest grossing flops of all time.  After months of pre-release hype, mainstream audiences were baffled by the film's moral ambiguity, speed-ramped fight sequences and giant blue genitalia.  It's a miracle the movie made any money at all.

In February, when Before Watchmen was announced, DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee said, "It's our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant."  Call my crazy, but after 25 years Watchmen's relevance has never wavered.  It's a singular piece of storytelling, comic-book or otherwise.

While I'm fundamentally opposed to Before Watchmen, I am somewhat conflicted.  My favourite comic-book writer, Joe Stracsynski, is tackling my favourite comic-book character, Dr. Manhattan.  But I plan on standing fast against this creative bankruptcy.  

Scott Pilgrim creator, Bryan Lee O’Malley, has also taken a hardliner approach.  He recently tweeted his position, urging his followers to avoid the forthcoming books.  “Apologies to all the creators and retailers, but people, don’t fucking buy Before Watchmen.”  Even a casual comic-book fan, like Collin Van Ooeyn, who runs Good Hustle Sports, is keen enough to realise that, "Before Watchmen is the equivalent of making a prequel to Citizen Kane."

Scams like Before Watchmen is one of the reasons why my interest in comics has waned in recent years.  I'm not saying the writers and artists involved aren't capable of telling compelling stories about Rorschach and the Minutemen.  I'm just saying those stories don't warrant the telling.  The beauty of Watchmen is that it's a self-contained story with a beginning, middle and end.  It's a complete work.  And it’s finite.  Or at least it was.

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