Yes, it’s finally happened. DC has gathered their best writers and artists to put together a series of prequels to the legendary Watchmen miniseries from 1986. You can read up on the details of who will be writing/drawing what here.
Before any of this was official, I can honestly that I was against any further Watchmen comics. What would be the point, when the groundbreaking work by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons could, in all likelihood, not be topped? In my mind, there were only two possibilities: one, more Watchmen material could turn out to be decent, but relatively passable, not adding or detracting from the original, or two, completely ruining what made the original so great in the first place.
Now that it’s happening though, I’m feeling a bit more level-headed. Before Watchmen is coming whether any of us like it or not, so it’s time we just accept that fact and move on. And being that the dust has settled a bit and each of the creative teams have been unveiled, I find myself more intrigued than angry. DC really seems to have lined up the absolute best of the best (short of Moore and Gibbons themselves) to work on the project. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least interested in what these writers and artists have in store for us.
Naturally, the reaction to the news has polarized fans, something which even the creative team acknowledges. I wouldn’t count myself for or against Before Watchmen at this point, but I will say that it’s important to approach the series with reasonable expectations. This is not the second coming, nor is it something to be dismissed outright. The original 12-issue miniseries will always be sitting on my shelf and still be able to stand on its own, regardless of how these prequels turn out.
The one thing I’m not so thrilled with is the fact that Dave Gibbons isn’t involved in some capacity. Unlike Alan Moore, he’s been an active player in a lot of Watchmen material since 1986, including illustrating a teaser poster for Zack Snyder’s film adaptation. Gibbons received an offer from DC, but sadly declined to participate. Disappointing, as I would’ve really loved to see him return to the series that ushered in the Modern Age of comic books.
I’ve been scanning through a few message boards to get a feel for the reactions, and I remember reading one comment saying that these books will “live and die on their own merits.” I could not agree more – these books can’t just be a filling-in of history referenced in the original, they have to be great stories that can stand on their own. Otherwise, Before Watchmen will exist solely to leech off the original and end up drawing further negative comparisons.
I also want to mention something Alan Moore’s daughter tweeted recently:
I agree to some extent, but obviously when you’re dealing with any creative enterprise, risk-taking is not exactly as sound from a monetary perspective as say, building on a well-known brand. It’s understandable DC would want to utilize the highly profitable Watchmen property…hell, I’m surprised they didn’t do it earlier. And sure, I’d love to see DC take more risks to try and find “the next Watchmen”, but it wouldn’t make much sense for me to expect as much. DC is a business like any other and will always favor established, money-making franchises before taking risks on new properties and ideas. It’s just not how the system works.
Again, these prequels will be arriving whether we like it or not. Personally, I’d count myself on the side of cautious optimism. I’m not at all expecting to re-live my first experience with the original book, but I am interested in seeing how these new stories unfold. I love the Watchmen universe and the characters that occupy it, and I’d be remiss to ignore more of something that’s so important to me.
I plan on reading and reviewing every issue of the new series for the site once they’ve been released, so you can look forward to my final reactions in the future. As always, feel free to comment with your own reactions/opinions.