With the publication of Comedian #6 (and the cancellation of the Epilogue) Before Watchmen has officially wrapped up. Despite all the brew ha ha that erupted among comic book fans, now that the series has been released in full we can all stop the petty bickering and focus solely on the merit of each individual series…no? Oh right, people are still bitching about the same crap that has no bearing whatsoever on the actual stories. Luckily there’s a reasonable and well thought out response to everyone one of these flimsy and unfounded arguments:
- “[DC is] in there just for the money“: “Oh my god! A company is trying to make money! It’s almost as if they need to turn a profit in order to continue operating!” Of course it’s all about money. Which is also why DC chose some of the best writers in the game to write these stories. Claiming it’s all about money (which from a simplified point of view is true) implies that DC’s goal was to put out terrible, half-baked stories, with the Watchmen name slapped on the front, assuming fans will eat it up. DC understands that in order for these books to make money, they will need to be really, really good. The quality of the stories is subjective, but to imply that DC did not intend to make great work is dumb.
- “Since these series are situated in the continuity of the original series, they had nowhere to go”: This one’s especially dumb, because this doesn’t just affect Before Watchmen, but instead invalidates every prequel ever made, or will ever be made. The argument here is that since we’re already aware of what will happen to these characters, the story has no purpose or consequences. But in general, prequels are not meant to effect change, but instead provide us with a deeper emotional connection to those events that do occur. And/or add dimension to the characters we already know. For instance, in the Godfather part 2, we’re already aware that Don Corleone will die in the rose garden, does that make the scenes of young Vito any less amazing?
- “What about the Right’s of the Creators”: Ok, this one is a bit more complicated. Many artists and writers have created iconic characters now worth billions of dollars, but only received 1 measly pay check for their work. But you can’t draw a line in the sand at this series, as this is something that’s happened for decades in the comic book industry. If this is your argument against Before Watchmen, and you’ve read Superman comics by anyone other than Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (who were never fully compensated for creating the Man of Steel) you’re a hypocrite. Besides, comic books are not like novels. It’s always been a collaborative medium, and expanding and exploring characters just comes natural. Finally, it’s not fair to argue that Superman was created to be a serialized character and the Watchmen were not, because regardless of whether that’s true, the creators of Superman have still never been fairly compensated for their work. So if you were really so concerned about creator’s rights, you would never read a Superman book ever again.
- Watchmen was such a self-contained classic that you can’t really add to it: Ok, first of all, this argument is a matter of opinion, not fact. So as long as we’re entitled to subjective arguments, then I would counter that I think there’s still plenty of interesting stories to be told within this universe. Plus, Alan Moore, the old crank who created Watchmen, has taken a whole slew of characters, including Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Alice from Through the Looking Glass and Ichabod Crane from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, re-imagined each of them, and even (gasp!) expanded the universes of these characters. So it’s ok for Allan Moore to write a sequel in which Alice is “attending drug fueled lesbian sex parties” but he raises a stink about prequels that largely remain true to the essence of his characters? While this point doesn’t necessarily validate the Watchmen prequels, presumably those who side with Moore also enjoy his other work. So if this is your stance, then you can never, ever enjoy any creative work that attempts to expand the universe of a character that previously existed in a so called “self contained” story.
- “Stop violating my memories”: How do these books in any way violate your memories? This is still America, or (insert whichever democratic nation you happen to be living in). You don’t have to see Michael Bay’s Ninja Turtles if the thought of them being from outer space makes you want to kill yourself. You’ll still have your untarnished memories of that first movie, the video games or that really shitty third movie (how come no one says that one violates their memories?). Jaws is a perfect movie regardless of the terrible sequels, and even if you hate Before Watchmen, it will not in any way tarnish that first book.
- “Those characters are wed to their time frame, a world of opposing power blocs and the threat of all-out nuclear war. 2012′s concerns are very different”: Yes, because nowadays the threats of opposing power blocs and nuclear war have been completely eliminated. This is a shallow point of view, as it focuses on the big details of the Watchmen story rather than the subtext, which remains relatable and relevant, thus explaining the books enduring popularity. Although Watchmen is a product of its time on the surface, the reason it is considered a masterpiece is because it’s themes are still prevalent today. If we were to seriously consider this argument, a comic book about World War 2 could never be successful, because the Third Reich isn’t a threat anymore.
Here’s the thing. Comic book fans are very protective of their stories. Based on the hate filled comments I’ve read about this topic (and about the apparently ludicrous idea of casting a black actor to play a white superhero) I’d compare the holier than thou set of principles that some comics fans live by to that of militant religious zealots. If you read this and you’re pre-disposed to hate these books, you’re going to be pissed off. But then again, if you approach Before Watchmen (or anything) by hating it before actually knowing anything about it, you’re going to miss out on alot of good things in life.