DC did it. They dug up THAT grave. They meddled with those characters. They're doing a Watchmen prequel.
I hope the title - Before Watchmen - doesn't indicate the level of effort that went into this. There are some interesting creators on the project, but even with interesting creators I'm not sure this is a series I want to see. None of this pop culture shit we're interested in is 'necessary,' but this feels especially unnecessary.
The series will be a bunch of miniseries, followed by an epilogue. There will be a two pager that continues through all the titles, called Curse of the Crimson Corsair - so another pirate comic, riffing on the original. Here's the line up of titles and creators:
•Rorschach by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Bermejo
•Comedian by Azzarello and artist J.G. Jones
•Minutemen by writer/artist Darwyn Cooke
•Silk Spectre by Cooke and artist Amanda Conner
•Nite Owl by writer J. Michael Straczynski and artists Joe and Andy Kubert
•Dr. Manhattan by Straczynski and artist J.G. Jones
•Ozymandias by writer and original Watchmen editor Len Wein with art by Jae Lee
The epilogue will be written and drawn by a hodge podge of the above.
Except for the Straczynski, that's a good line-up. I'm actually excited to see what Cooke does with Minutemen. And as someone on Twitter mentioned, interesting that Len Wein, upon whose Swamp Thing Alan Moore made his career, will be doing work on Moore's back.
There are some dumb quotes being thrown around in support of this project, most of which are coming from the incorrect supposition that Watchmen is in some way dated. It's not. The most damning thing you can say about the comic book industry is that it never quite got past Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns, both of which read as current now as the day they were published - except maybe now they read sort of like parody of the last 25 years.
The harder, and riskier path is to reconsider and relaunch every major title in your library, or in this case, to bring back characters and a universe no one has dared touch in 25 years and say, “Okay, what can these characters tell us about the world we live in as seen through the eyes of readers in 2012 that’s new? What can we learn from them? What kinds of stories can we tell about them now that we couldn’t tell 25 years ago?” It’s a gutsy move, any way you want to slice it…
And here's Azzarello:
What’s key is “that we all get in there and we tell the best possible stories we can and we reconnect these characters. It’s 25 years later. Let’s make them vital again.”
They're vital now!
Both those quotes are dumb on their face, if only because Watchmen is using Silver and Golden Age tropes viewed through the eyes of the burgeoning Dark Age. If you want to do this series for 2012, you need to move your perspective back. You need to be doing a Watchmen that's looking at the Dark Age and the Chrome Cover Age (or whatever we're calling the over-speculation period). All this series will be doing is echoing the stuff that Moore was saying back in the 80s.
And here's the thing: Watchmen is incredibly complete. It is truly the greatest comic book ever written, a story that is almost hermetically sealed. Opening that seal will only give us a brief whiff of the air of 1985, which will dissipate into the smoggy atmosphere of the latest Infinite Fuck You 52.
Below is a gallery of the covers, collected from around the web by Bleeding Cool.