A Look Back at Things to Come – The Gentleman Monster on “Before Watchmen”
So there are these Watchmen Prequels coming out from DC under the title Before Watchmen. I’d normally be against this, but the creative talent is better than most of what DC Comics publishes right now.
- RORSCHACH (4 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Lee Bermejo
- MINUTEMEN (6 issues) – Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
- COMEDIAN (6 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: J.G. Jones
- DR. MANHATTAN (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artist: Adam Hughes
- NITE OWL (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artists: Andy and Joe Kubert
- OZYMANDIAS (6 issues) – Writer: Len Wein. Artist: Jae Lee
- SILK SPECTRE (4 issues) – Writer: Darwyn Cooke. Artist: Amanda Conner
I will buy almost everything that Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner work on. Brian Azzarello, Bermejo, and Jones are favorites of mine. Len Wein and Jae Lee sound like an interesting team. I’m certain that the Kuberts and Hughes will produce some great but probably late artwork.
Darwyn Cooke is doing Minute Men which means we get a retro superhero story where Darwyn gets to recapture all the grit and glamor of the 40′s. I’m a huge fan of his work on New Frontier; I even bought the Absolute Edition, all $100 of it. If he can bring the passion and skill of that book to Minute Men, I’ll be able to ignore plenty of sacred cows.
Seeing Amanda Conner draw both Silk Spectres in their eponymous title is going to be great. Cooke’s script could just be 4 issues of Laurie arguing with her mother, and I’m certain that it’ll be more entertaining than the new Justice League book. Conner’s art is that good; I bought the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special because of her. I don’t regret it. Cooke has already proven that he’s great with female leads from his work on Catwoman and his take on Wonder Woman in New Frontier. I can’t wait to see what the team does with the rather twisted Juspeczyk family tree.
Which leaves us with J. Michael Straczynski. JMS. He created Babylon 5, and I really like that show. Then he started writing comics, and then he began the Grounded arc starring Superman. It was terrible, and I mean laughably bad. JMS didn’t even finish the story; Chris Roberson finished it and managed to make some pretty sweet lemonade out of those heinous, self righteous lemons. His Brave and the Bold run was not terribly good, and his Superman graphic novel Earth One was also offputting in a number of ways I don’t want to expand on.
The interesting thing is that JMS loves Superman and claims the character as a big personal influence, but his work with the character has been dependably awful. He has also claimed Watchmen as a beloved work and a big personal influence, so I’m not expecting him to reach the heights of older, better works of his like Midnight Nation (I really liked it, check it out).
However, he said the following, where he compared Alan Moore’s situation with Watchmen to a hypothetical situation involving himself and Babylon 5:
“If Warners offered me creative freedom, money and a budget to do the show [Babylon 5, his old tv show] the way I wanted, up to and including my completely owning the show, and I said no to that deal, and if after Warners waited TWENTY FIVE YEARS for me to change my mind they finally decided to go ahead and make [my property] B5 without me… then I would have absolutely zero right to complain about it. Because it was my choice to remove myself from the process, it wasn’t something foisted upon me by anybody else.”
Now, I think that’s just a silly thing to say because his use of “absolutely zero right” is either poorly written hyperbole or a terrible point in his argument. Alan Moore has all the right in the world to complain because we live in a free society. The same goes for JMS’s contrary opinion. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons thought they were going to get the rights to Watchmen back after it went out of print, and they didn’t because it never went out of print. Moore felt cheated and never gave his permission to DC’s desire to do more with the characters. Gibbons let it go because he could make more money letting DC spin things out of Watchmen. Nothing was foisted on Alan Moore in this case, but he did have the rights to Watchmen snatched out from under him via a contract loophole.
Alan Moore can be a weird, bitter old man. He complains about comic books that he openly admits to never reading. Recent interview quotes make him sound more than a little paranoid. He’s been compensated rather well financially for his creations’ appearances in comics, movies, and TV which is not the normal practice for plenty of creators. Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Gary Friedrich, and Steve Gerber have received much worse deals than Alan Moore did. However, he claims he was lead to believe he would get the rights back to his work, and he didn’t. I’d be upset about it too, but I don’t know if I could be as upset about it as Moore. If you can’t tell, I’m conflicted about this. It would be really easy if I wasn’t so excited to see Minute Men and Silk Spectre.
There is one solution that I think will make everyone happy. The creators can do their mini-series, but they have to do what Moore and Gibbons did in the 80′s and create analogs for all theWatchmen characters. It’s even MORE in the spirit of Watchmen to create new versions of old characters than use somebody else’s work. I think it’s a great idea, but we all know the real money is in doing more material with the characters as created by Moore and Gibbons. In the end, nothing was going to stop DC Entertainment from leaving the Watchmen prequel money on the table, but at least we have some interesting titles coming out of it.