Before Watchmen

Before Watchmen, Doctor Manhattan... was having awesome threesomes. Silk Spectre wasn't always there.

Before Watchmen, Silk Spectre... laundry day at the ol' government base. Thankfully, Doc Manhattan doesn't increase the load.

Before Watchmen, Rorschach... was kicking heads in. Of course.

Before Watchmen, the Comedian... was walking around, unaware that he would soon fly out a window.

Before Watchmen, Ozymandias... was opening his mint action figures, ruining their resale value.

Before Watchmen, the Minutemen... had been retired for decades.

Before Watchmen, Nite Owl... was buying beans, to set us up for THIS crucial scene:
So yes, we can question whether or not Before Watchmen is necessary (I really don't think it IS), but can we question whether or not it's a good idea? To be fair to DC Comics, this is EXACTLY what they should be up to if they want to crack that mythical untapped pool of potential comic book buyers. Watchmen has been a consistent seller since 1986, sales bolstered by the movie coming out. Watchmen wasn't just a sales success, but a critical one as well, part of numerous best lists and winning awards like the Hugo. Non-comics buyers continue to buy copies of Watchmen, so why WOULDN'T DC give those customers other options at the book store?

(It also explains a couple of mysteries: The Watchmen-style new DC logo now has a reason to exist, and there's the evasive answers given at panels about where certain talents were in the New52 line. "They're working on something." This was it for many of them.)

Some of the creators on these books have name status out in the Mundane world as well, like Darwyn Cooke, though I do question the use of J. Michael Straczynski on something set to be a weekly project (very much aside from the fact that I hate his comics writing). Brian Azzarello, Amanda Conner, J.G. Jones, Joe Kubert (inking son Andy?), Adam Hughes, even Jae Lee. I feel kinda bad for comics veteran Len Wein whose style is much more workmanlike compared to these contemporary all-stars. And if I DO question something, it's that they're doing it as a massive weekly (unless JMS derails the whole thing) series of 35 issues. If you're going after the market that buys Watchmen, you need to put them out as pre-collected graphic novels. You really do. I truly believe that's how you're going to grab the untapped market, not with monthly rags, but with shelf-ready BOOKS.

As for the Alan Moore issue, well, that's complicated. I can't claim to understand whatever deal he has with DC, or who really own the rights to the characters (as opposed to licensing them), or how he has been treated by DC historically. It doesn't matter to me because that's not the issue he's raised. His complaint isn't that DC is profiting from his work, it's that you don't touch a classic work like that. He compared Watchmen to Moby Dick and everything. Hubris aside, this is the guy who made his CAREER upending (not always flatteringly) other people's creations. It's actually amusing that Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein gets to work on Moore's baby. But look, LXG uses tons of characters pinched from 19th-century authors. There's Marvelman. And I wonder how Barrie, Baum and Carroll would have liked Lost Girls, in which their characters are pictured in underage orgies and incestuous situations? The Peter Pan copyright holders apparently raised concerns, which Mr. Moore brushed off. And if Watchmen had been done with the Charlton characters as originally planned, would artists like Steve Ditko have appreciated Captain Atom in threeways with himself and Nightshade, or Blue Beetle's costume fetish? In other words, he loses all credibility for me, and he's just become the industry's big grouch, always good for a bit of controversy to keep comics in the headlines. He MIGHT have a real case to make, but he's been crying wolf for so long, I just can't tell anymore. Dave Gibbons doesn't seem bothered.

By the way, I don't remember him being pissed at the three DC Heroes RPG Watchmen products that filled in a lot of the history of the Watchmen (prized items in my collection).

And before publishing this post? ...I fed a cat and took a shower. You?


notintheface said...

I don't think Peacemaker as an attempted rapist would have thrilled Joe Gill either.

De said...

I agree with you that this needs to be done with original graphic novels, rather than floppies, and marketed to masses rather than the hardcore fan base.

However, I think the prime opportunity for this has passed. This really should have been done during the post-Dark Knight, pre-Watchmen movie period when sales of the trade had skyrocketed.

Siskoid said...

Definitely. But DC's been having difficulty with timing.

Austin Gorton said...

I truly believe that's how you're going to grab the untapped market, not with monthly rags, but with shelf-ready BOOKS.

I wonder if that's part of why they're doing these weekly, instead of monthly: get the loss-leading floppies out as fast as possible, to allow for the trade collections thereof to hit the shelves that much faster?

Kinda like soft and hard opens for restaurants and theme parks and stuff. The floppies are DC's soft open, but they fully expect to make their real money off the project once the collections hits the book shelves.

As for Alan Moore...I have tremendous respect for his work, but I don't disagree with anything you said. I mean, that's the game you play when you start working in a shared universe: you play with someone else's toys, but someone else gets to play with them when you're done.

Besides, as plenty of people have pointed out, love it or hate it, nothing about this actually changes the existing work, anymore so than sequels to Moby Dick, Gone with the Wind, Dracula, etc. changed those books.

Siskoid said...

I agree with everything you've said.

Craig Oxbrow said...

His views might be not-as-I-do, but Moore had a hand in the Mayfair Watchmen books so that's a different case.

(I'd also love to get reprints of his Doctor Who comics, stuck in the vault over a disagreement with Marvel UK.)

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I'm curious as to how out of touch some writers might be in trying to capture the years leading up to 1985. I will likely wait for trades, but I can assume a few writers (short of Len Wein) will write their books as if it was 1985 to begin with. Hope I'm making sense. JMS involved? All we need is Watchmen: Earth One next.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I mean, if certain titles involved, say, Vietnam, or the Keene Act of 1977. They'll have a disconnect if they were babies when Nixon resigned.

SallyP said...

Y'know, I'm actually becoming rather intrigued by the new Watchmen books, because there are a lot of people involved that I really really like, such as Darwynne Cooke and Amanda Connor. Plus, I didn't read Watchmen until I was old, and it had been around for to me it isn't such a sacred cow anyway.

Lazarus Lupin said...

Thank you for pointing out what I've been seeing that Moore didn't have any seeming trouble in stomping into other people's art for his own playground and so it seems a bit odd now he cries foul.

Lazarus lupin

snell said...

I know we've had this discussion before, but in this specific case I have to strongly disagree: Watchmen read much, much better as a series of (mostly) monthly single issues than as a collected novel.

Siskoid said...

But how many Mundanes can claim to have read it that way? And that's the market they're going after.

Even among hardcore comics fans, the likelihood is that you read Watchmen as a graphic novel. I was 15 in 1986 and at least 4 hours drive from any kind of comic book shop that might have carried the series. The early Direct Sales industry was a complete mystery to me and my small town. I ordered Watchmen from my Science Fiction Book Club where it was, I think, the only comic book work.

I'm not disagreeing that Watchmen is better as singles (it's too dense as a big book).

Austin Gorton said...

And, apparently, Moore's rebuttal to the whole "well, he adapts other people's characters too" argument is that it's okay because the authors of the characters he's writing are dead and he's just outright stealing them.

Oh, Alan Moore, you crazy wizard...

snell said...

So, presumably, Moore's theory about dead authors means that the Kirby and Siegel and Shuster estates don't have his support, then...

Siskoid said...

Another case of someone losing control of their message.


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