Pop Rocks: Because No One Demanded It, Watchmen Prequels Are on the Way

DC Comics isn't about to let a little thing like that mediocre live-action adaptation get in the way of continuing to squeeze a little more profit out of Nite Owl, Dr. Manhattan and the gang:

This summer, DC Entertainment will publish all-new stories expanding on the acclaimed WATCHMEN universe. As highly anticipated as they are controversial, the seven inter-connected prequel mini-series will build on the foundation of the original WATCHMEN, the best-selling graphic novel of all time. BEFORE WATCHMEN will be the collective banner for all seven titles, from DC Comics.

"It's our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant," said DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. "After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original."

"Highly anticipated?" Not hardly. "Controversial?" Only in the sense that fans of the original will have to discover new varieties of profanity with which to sprinkle their reactions.

But wait, there's more:


RORSCHACH (4 issues) - Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Lee Bermejo

MINUTEMEN (6 issues) - Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke

COMEDIAN (6 issues) - Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: J.G. Jones

DR. MANHATTAN (4 issues) - Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artist: Adam Hughes

NITE OWL (4 issues) - Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artists: Andy and Joe Kubert

OZYMANDIAS (6 issues) - Writer: Len Wein. Artist: Jae Lee

SILK SPECTRE (4 issues) - Writer: Darwyn Cooke. Artist: Amanda Conner

Of these, I'd probably only be excited about the ones Azzarello is writing. That's because I have most issues of his 100 Bullets and was apparently one of the only people who enjoyed his run on John Constantine: Hellblazer.

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I bring up Constantine because, like Watchmen, he's a creation of writer Alan Moore. Unlike Watchmen, Constantine was a recurring minor character with no defined story arc. After his first appearances in Swamp Thing, he was given his own title in 1989, and it's still running today.

That little bit of geek minutiae is simply to put Alan Moore's subsequent comments about the Watchmen prequels in perspective:

Speaking by telephone from his home in Northampton, England, Mr. Moore said, "I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago."

This could easily describe the comic book industry as a whole. Marvel and DC are still flogging properties that were created in the '30s, or '60s, or '80s. The difference, if anybody were to ask me, is that properties like Batman or the X-Men or Spider-Man have always been open-ended. Watchmen -- that New Frontiersman epilogue aside -- was never intended as such. The beauty of it was the way Moore and Dave Gibbons created such a perfectly self-contained tale.

Obviously there were flashbacks and references to the characters' pasts, but Moore gave us the important stuff, from the Comedian's run-in with Dr. Manhattan in Vietnam to his history with Sally Jupiter. Further details will likely be nothing but filler, and certainly won't have any effect on the original story. In that regard, they're nothing but potentially profitable fanfic.

Which, again, hardly makes them any different from 90% of comics written today. It's difficult to get too indignant about this, since they're easy to ignore and Moore is doubtless pocketing royalty money, just like he has from every other adaptation he's washed his hands of, from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to From Hell. Plus, his original idea for Watchmen involved using old Charlton Comics characters like the Blue Beetle and E-Man, but DC balked. The rest, as someone once said, is history.

The lesson being: All art is theft, everything old is new again, and this really is a victimless crime. If you don't like it, don't buy it. Pretty simple.

And Hellblazer is still pretty damn good.

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