Friday, June 08, 2012

This "Before Watchmen Situation"

Back in the last century I toyed with the idea of writing an epistolary novel. There was to have been no on-page interaction of characters but rather the story would have been told entirely within letters that the characters wrote to each other. I may still (ha ha) get around to working on this project so I won't reveal the (quite excellent) title I concocted for it.

This week the first issue of Before Watchmen was released. Maybe you bought and read it. Maybe I bought and read it. But instead of me going on about it one way or another, I have a different idea.

I've been reading everything about this Before Watchmen Situation since it first erupted, and I have been saving quotations from what I read. In the spirit of an epistolary novel, I want to share with you some very interesting things that others have been writing. If you have no earthly idea what the Before Watchmen Situation is, these quotes will make it abundantly clear. And even if you know very well what it's all about, I bet I have a couple of tidbits that have escaped your notice. Here we go:

Dan Didio:
I hope [Alan Moore]  looks at [the Before Watchmen comics] with an open mind and a chance to understand this is a love letter to what he created, and more importantly that the strength of his work is allowing other people to grow and tell other stories which will hopefully inspire other creators along the way. In the way he was inspired by the creators when he was younger, we’re hoping these ideas and these books are inspiring new people, so that we continue to grow the comics business as a whole.

Brendan Wright in The Wright Opinion:
DC has taken a huge step backwards in the way they discuss the reasons for Before Watchmen. It’s not being sold as a continuation of a great story, but as a continuation of great characters. But the characters aren’t all that great. Out of context, they’re pretty interchangeable with dozens of other superheroes, and a Rorschach story or Night Owl story outside of Watchmen are just two more superhero stories, hardly worth the attention these are getting.
It ignores the fundamental, inconvenient truth: whatever value Watchmen has comes not at all from Doctor Manhattan and the Comedian and entirely from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The book hasn’t stayed in print nearly 30 years because of its characters, but because of its perfectly controlled artwork and intricate writing, because even for someone like me who’s never been all the way convinced, it rewards rereading and has passages revelatory in their thematic and emotional payoff. By contrast, DC’s barely even hiding the fact the Before Watchmen is solely a cynically produced product.

Chris Roberson in The Comics Journal:
The only defense that’s offered of things like either Before Watchmen or the counter-suit against the Siegels or any number of different things that have been done historically is that the company is operating within the bounds of the law. The company is doing nothing illegal. There’s no defense mounted to the ethics or morality of their actions, and in many cases they will make kind of passing nods to the fact that what they are doing might be interpreted as unethical, but that because it’s not illegal, you know, they’re going to do it. And seeing as these are companies, both DC and Marvel, that are built upon stories about paragons of virtue who stand for what’s right, not for what’s nitpickingly legal, that was really bothersome to me.

Tim Marchman:
The first issues of Before Watchmen will be published next month. Among the writers working on it is former He-Man scripter J. Michael Straczynski, who once penned a comic in which Spider-Man sold his marriage to the devil. (This is the rough equivalent of having Z-movie director Uwe Boll film a studio-funded prequel to Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.)

J. Michael Straczynski:
The perception that these characters shouldn't be touched by anyone other than Alan is both absolutely understandable and deeply flawed. As good as these characters are - and they are very good indeed - one could make the argument, based on durability and recognition, that Superman is the greatest comics character ever created. But I don't hear Alan or anyone else suggesting that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should have been allowed to write Superman. Certainly Alan himself did this when he was brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein.

Len Wein:
I was the editor of most of those early [Watchmen] issues, and I had a problem with Alan's intended ending to the series, specifically that the ending was almost verbatim the ending of a wonderful episode of the classic SF series, The Outer Limits, called "The Architects of Fear". When I argued with Alan that he had to change his ending because it had already been done, Alan's reply was simply, "Well, it hasn't been done by me." To this day, the redundant ending of Watchmen mars all of the book's other magnificent qualities for me.

Jill Thompson:
If u draw ur line In the sand at Alan Moore and Watchmen are u also boycotting The Avengers?

Darwyn Cooke:
I'm not here to subvert these [characters]. I'm just here to tell a rippin' story.

Aaron Haarland on Bleeding Cool (originally misattributed to Rich Johnston):
Before Watchmen: Minutemen!  Darwin Cooke is the new Alan Moore. One reimagined Swamp Thing, Charlton heroes, and literary characters, the other took on the Spirit, Parker, silver age DC, and now the Watchmen mythos. This book delivered. Skip it if you feel you must, but I loved every page.

Paul Grist:
There's great talent on Before Watchmen. That's true. But it's like when your favourite band decides to do a covers album. 

Dave Gibbons:
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.

Alan Moore:
It’s a finite series. Watchmen was said to actually provide an alternative to the superhero story as an endless soap opera. To turn that into just another superhero comic that goes on forever demonstrates exactly why I feel the way I do about the comics industry. It’s mostly about franchises. Comic shops these days barely sell comics. It’s mostly spin-offs and toys.

Cameron Stewart:
Before Watchmen begins tomorrow. I'm not going to tell you not to buy it, but I will ask you to consider the implications of it.


At 11:06 AM, Blogger Rich Johnston said...

I never said that. I don't believe it either.


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