Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tonight I read the first of a whopping 35 total comics that will be published under the Before Watchmen banner from DC Comics (7 mini-series and a one-shot epilogue). First out of the prequel gates is The Minutemen, written and drawn by the great Darwyn Cooke. Besides for getting points for being Canadian, Darwyn has produced some of the best comic book stories of our time: The New Frontier, Catwoman: Selina's Big Score, The Spirit, and an amazing story within a great ongoing series - Jonah Hex #33.

I've completely flip-flopped on my view towards DC's revisiting to the Watchmen universe. The Watchmen is one of my favourite comic books of all time, it is a self-contained story, and I thought should have been left alone. It was Alan Moore's reaction to the new comics that made me go turn-coat on him. He seems in a state of utmost offended shock that DC produce this series, and that anyone working on it is a monster. There's a few points of debate that I think stand against the genius writer's outrage.

No one forced Alan Moore to write The Watchmen for DC back in the day. There were plenty of creator owned books on the comic store shelves in the mid-1980's, there was Cerebus, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Love and Rockets, and Concrete to name but a few. Since The Watchmen doesn't feature characters from the Justice League or Teen Titans, why didn't he just go the indie route with his ideas?

Alan Moore also seems to be up in arms the anyone else mess with his characters. Even though he in his past have written stories featuring Swamp Thing, Superman, Batman, Batgirl, Joker, etc...none of which of course were created by him. On top of that, like so much of Alan Moore's comic book work, The Watchmen are just archetypes of pre-existing characters. Every single Watchmen found it's influence from Charlton Comics characters: The Comedian = Peacemaker, Doctor Manhattan = Captain Atom, Nite Owl = Blue Beetle, Ozymandias = Peter Cannon Thunderbolt, Rorschach = The Question, and Silk Spectre = Nightshade. Alan Moore is one of the greatest writers, many would say the greatest, but he is also very fond of making use of other people's characters.

For his very hypocritical stance, and maybe also to piss off hipster fan-boys, I decided to give Before Watchmen a chance. That, and because of the indisputable fact that DC managed to convince some of the best talent working in the medium to jump on board. Besides for Darwyn, you also have the likes of Amanda Conner, J. Michael Straczynski, Brian Azzarello, Len Wein, and J. G. Jones working on the project. They also have Adam Hughes actually drawing a comic book for the first time in ages, and not only Andy Kubert, but his living legend father Joe Kubert lending his artistic talents.

All the geek controversy aside, all that really matters is if these things are good. Well, not only was Minutemen #1 good, it was kind of great. And if all the other writers and artists step up to the plate in a similar manner, I think this expended Watchmen universe undertaking will be a worthwhile one indeed. And if it pisses off Alan Moore and pretentious fan-boys, well that is just a bonus.

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