Monday, February 20, 2012

Watch Out

I've mentioned on this site a few times how much I appreciate Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons' Watchmen graphic novel from DC Comics, falling in with the plurality of those who consider it one of the finest works of comic art ever produced. Thus, when word broke a few weeks ago about DC Comics' attempt to squeeze some more blood from the Watchmen IP rights by producing a series of prequels under the umbrella title "Before Watchmen," it was natural that several folks reached out to me to offer up some kind of a reaction. After all, in comic book circles, this is sort of the equivalent of when they first announced the Star Wars prequels.

But like with that much-derided trilogy (though there it was only in hindsight), this too seems like a perfunctory addition to a story that was already complete in and of itself. It really didn't need any appendages tacked on to make it more effective -- something I'd be saying even if the original creative team was involved (something that is most assuredly not the case for Moore). And while I'd been planning to type something up about this new Watchmen venture for awhile now, I kept going back to comments I made in this post about my mixed feelings on Terminator Salvation in '09, which I think are equally applicable in this instance:
The broader point...that I've become increasingly cognizant of as I get older and I see more and more revered franchises from yesteryear trotted out for remakes, reboots, or (God help us) "re-imaginings," is that maybe it's okay to just leave well enough alone sometimes. Certain stories are simply meant to stand as is. No part two. No trilogy. No TV series. Just a beginning, middle, and end.
All of the above just as easily applies to "Before Watchmen." It feels forced, it feels unnecessary, and above all, it feels mercenary.

Of course, none of that should surprise anyone. The notion of "Artistic integrity" rarely factors in when there's a goldmine of profit potential just sitting on the shelf untapped, as Watchmen has been since the mid-'80s. What should surprise us, if anything, is that the DC honchos held off on tapping the vein for as long as they did. While they've lined up a fairly impressive cadre of talent to put these books out, I can't say I'm particularly interested in them, and my friend Joakim Jahlmar makes the case for why in much more detail and with much more energy than I can muster on the subject. Give his overview and analysis a read, and when you get to the end, tack on a "word" from me.

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