The Watchmen prequels (Before Watchmen) were announced today by DC, to a very mixed reaction. Due out this summer, the seven mini -series have some pretty heavy talent behind them, including Brian Azzarello, Adam Hughes, Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner. Considered one of the most influential books in the history of comics, there are many who feel that the works shouldn’t be expanded upon, and there are just as many who want to see these books. In fact, even creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons seem to be split over DC’s decision to create the prequels, with Moore firmly against and Gibbons wishing DC all the best.
The divide doesn’t stop there. Even here at Girls Read Comics Too opinions differ. So we’ve decided to argue it out, point/counterpoint style, with Dee being for the prequels and Angel being against.
I love Watchmen. I first read the book when I was far too young but over the years I’ve kept going back to it. I have issues with a few points (the rape scene mainly) but overall it is a great book with interesting characters and a story that always manages to have an emotional effect on me. When the rumours first started flying around about the possibility of more Watchmen books I was wary but curious. I decided then that these were characters that I’d like to see more about and this is a world I’d love to have explored further, but I wasn’t sure about this. Would the book, the characters and the world be treated with respect? Would the stories bring anything interesting to the table or would they simply be capitalising on the fame of the characters as the legion of Batman and Superman spinoffs, retellings and side-series do?
The actual announcement thrilled me. DC has put some amazing talent on these books. Azarello writing Comedian when he’s so well suited to darker stories, Cooke on writing and art duties, Amanda Conner working with Cooke, Joe and Andy Kubert, and Adam Hughes on interior art? Those names alone made me realise how much effort DC was putting into these prequels. Then I started to read the interviews. Cooke and JMS especially, talking about their meetings about the books, about how reverentially they treated the source material, Hughes writing about his long time love of Watchmen and what it meant to work on these. Oh my, I went from thrilled to completely over the top excited.
Is Watchmen already a self-contained story and book? Yes, it is. But it’s also a very rich world that can be opened up for more exploration, and these are characters that can stand being held up to the light one more time.
I think that yes, there is still a chance these books won’t be great. But there is a very good chance that they will. There’s the opportunity to show us more of this world and to share new stories about characters that we love. Which to me is exactly what any comic about an established character tries to do, and I’ll definitely be giving these books a chance.
I’ll say upfront that I’m not a longtime fan of Watchmen like a lot of people are. I didn’t read the graphic novel until after the film was announced, mostly because I was determined to read what was supposedly such a genre changing work before the adaptation likely ruined it. Immediately, I thought it was obvious why so many people lauded the book, and to this day, I absolutely adore it.
But here’s the thing: While I feel that Watchmen is a story that takes place in a fantastic universe with many complex characters, I never felt that the book left me with any lingering, unanswered questions. I think it’s a complete work as it stands. God, a MORE than complete work. What we don’t get in the drawn narrative, we get in the supplementary materials (I speak, of course, of the text-only portions of the book.)
Not only do I feel as if the book is fine as it is, in some cases, I think that dredging up these characters to tell unnecessary back stories will only detract from the original work. In the case of Dr. Manhattan– his origin story is my favorite, by the way– I think this is doubly true. The narrative there is my absolute favorite thing in the entire book; the way it skips in time and still manages to give you a complete story. So what’s the purpose in trying to fill in gaps? I loved the sort of complete/incomplete nature of the telling, how you get glimpses of the important bits.
I think perhaps, I’d have a different opinion here if this wasn’t a series of prequels but another complete story within the same universe. That, perhaps, I might be interested in. But Watchmen is a self-contained story, it’s not a serial. This is different to me than a character having a somewhat self-contained story arc and then continuing with that character. It’s different than the recent DC reboots (which I’ve actually liked a lot, despite my reservations before the New 52 launched last year). Watchmen is what it is, and I feel like it should be left alone. To me, this whole thing just reeks of dredging up characters just to make money. DC know sthat there’s a resurgence of the Watchmen fanbase following the film (some might argue that the film was a few years back and that’s over and done with, but here I am, a comparatively new fan, arguing) and they’re trying to capitalize on it.
So readers, what do you think? Are you for, against, or unsure and waiting to see?