|there is a reason all the comics geeks over the age of 30 are posting this picture today|
Gerry wrote a compelling piece over at his site, and I encourage you to read what he has to say on the topic of Watchmen prequels.
No doubt one look at DC's books by the new leadership up at the very top saw that Watchmen isn't just successful in comics, its a transformative publishing success story for comics. Its more or less been DC's way of printing money every quarter since I was in high school. DCE President Diane Nelson is an entertainment executive, and it is not the job of an executive to think of the product as anything but product. We readers and collectors have the luxury of thinking of our comics as art or works of literature, but the first thing that happens when a book or movie does well? The publisher or studio starts looking to either produce a sequel or re-assemble the components that made that first hit such a hit.
If the President of a drinking glass making company sees that pint glasses are moving more than tumblers, they need to make more pint glasses, and probably a variety of pint glasses. ECONOMICS!
That, I get.
But I don't think I'll be picking up any of the series.*
DC seems to have lined up all-star artistic talent (believe me, an Adam Hughes drawn Dr. Manhattan sounds pretty phenomenal). But they've handed several of the books over to J. Michael Straczynski, the same man who had comics readers howling with his take on Superman, who flamed out on Spidey, who has had myriad problems in comics and whose Superman: Earth-1 seemed to move more off of press clippings about a "Twilight-y" Superman and superlative art than the dull take on the Superman mythos within the covers.
The brief nature of the mini-series (the series run 4-6 issues) tosses a bit of concern out as it feels a bit like the pre-movie tie-in's that DC sends to press as they did with Green Lantern and Superman Returns. Those comics are notoriously worthless bits of non-canonical background for a story that's already complete within the frames of the film. Even fans of the Green Lantern comics don't really grab them. Nor have DC's recent attempts to have mini tie-in's with their comics such as Infinite Crisis, Countdown, Final Crisis or Flashpoint been much more than non-necessary ancillary books that, on average, only succeeded if they mostly ignored the larger narrative they were supposed to support.
In short: I don't really trust DC to do this well. I may trust individuals such as Cooke, but from an overall editorial and publishing stance? Not at all. Not when they've never successfully run multiple simultaneous series like this before.
Watchmen is a singular work. Its success is in the clockwork mechanism of the story, seamlessly tying the elements, plot lines, art, etc... together. Not that I expect a DC run by Didio, Lee and Harras to appreciate what makes Watchmen the most respected superhero book outside of comic shops. They may see elements on the page, but its not hard to see from their output how all three of these folks were partially responsible for the aftermath of the 80's and the ridiculousness of the 90's. So is it any mystery that, unlike Levitz, these guys are leaping at the opportunity rather than holding fast?
I will say: Fellow comic fans, if your response is "well, you'll always have your precious Watchmen book. Nobody is taking that away." Yes. Yes they are. Frankly, I find the usual arguments regarding "you still have your comics" unsupportable except in the strictest, objective sense.
I'm of the generation that saw Star Wars dismantled and used for parts. I'm still trying to reconcile Kirk's inexplicable death in Generations. I watched Indiana Jones sail through the air in a refrigerator and be supplanted by Shia LeBouf of all people. Spider-Man made a deal with Satan to save his aunt and end his marriage (relevancy!). I'm currently nervously watching DC flop about with Superman, the foundation of all their livelihoods, trying to make the character as different as possible. And, if we can be honest, I'm feeling my interest in not just DC, but comics in general, begin to dwindle in no small part thanks to the DC ReLaunch (PS: DC, I had more money to spend on comics than 18 year olds. Now that money is going to crack. I hope you're happy, Jim Lee.).
Sure, I'll always have my copies of Watchmen, but I'll also always know that the temptation of the easy dollar was worth far more to DC than the work itself. Which, really, should come as no surprise given the history of DC as a company.
Future generations won't be able to distinguish the original from the follow-ups (just as 20-somethings currently don't understand the position of Dark Knight and Watchmen), nor will they understand why those books were so different in tone and content.
DC has been laying down their story, attempting to craft a smoke screen in the press and doing a lot of the "let's make up reality to fit our story" business that I expect out of politicians, but not out of comic publishers.
“The original series of WATCHMEN is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell. However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire,” said Dave Gibbons, WATCHMEN co-creator and original series artist.
“Comic books are perhaps the largest and longest running form of collaborative fiction,” said DiDio and Lee. “Collaborative storytelling is what keeps these fictional universes current and relevant.”
Well, Gibbons has to put food on the table. But Didio and Lee? Haven't we held up Watchmen for two decades as the visionary work of Moore and Gibbons? Who do they think they're talking to?
Making the rounds are the folks pointing out that Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster and a host of others ALSO got screwed. This is true. Do I read the Kirby Genesis books? No. Do I buy Kirby collections and back issues? Yes. Was I aware of any of these issues for the first ten years I read comics? No. Do I think DC is now paying pretty heavily (karmically, if nothing else) for having had failed Siegel & Shuster? Absolutey. Now that I'm informed, do I find the situation around embracing an all new franchising of characters who already have two generations of story under their belt in print a little off-putting? A smidge.
But, mostly because this would all be fairly unnecessary had Dan Didio done his job and made DC Comics stronger at any point in the past ten years. Why hasn't he been able to identify or bring to life anything in the neighborhood of works from 26 years ago? Why aren't we seeing the continuing adventures of Relevant Lady and the Current Squad?
Speaking of creators... have you ever seen so many creators on Twitter behind one idea so much as Watchmen 2? Man, I know you all want work, creators. And I know the potential for lucrative work on something like Watchmen 3 seems like a really good deal, but its a little embarrassing, and it makes you look a wee bit like a sell-out, if that idea even has any currency in 2012.
In the end, I think these comics will probably be fine, serviceable comics that only serve to dilute the Watchmen brand in book stores and create the weirdness in fandom when we see squeeing 18 year olds who will say things like "Straczynski's Watchmen is the only real Watchmen!" because they will not have been there when the work mattered, and they will be a product of teaching-to-the-test. Also, they'll probably be ugly.
I am aware this is a personal preference.
But its another salvo from DC informing me that they'd really like it if I left comics, please.
*Well, maybe I'll look at Darwyn Cooke's Minutemen, because, c'mon people... Darwyn Cooke.