Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Comic Book Review: Before Watchmen

25 years ago, DC Comics published one of the most unique and controversial comic book series of all time: Watchmen. Written by Alan Moore with art by Dave Gibbons, Watchmen was released as a 12-issue limited series from September 1986 to October 1987. It changed the world of comic books forever and with the popularity of the 2009 movie directed by Zack Snyder, it was only a matter of time before the characters would re-emerge into the world of comics again. Before Watchmen is a new series of comic books based on the seminal graphic novel, featuring new stories on the characters from the Watchmen universe.
With the release of Minutemen #1 last week which features the origin of the original masked hero team from the 1940's which included the original Nite Owl, Silk Spectre and The Comedian, Before Watchmen is comprised of seven titles with six issues each is set to be released this month. Along with Minutemen, the other titles include Silk Spectre, Comedian, and Nite Owl. Over the next few months other titles featuring Ozymandias, Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan will be released. The series will also include some of DC Comics' hottest writers and artists including Darwyn Cooke, J.G. Jones, Brian Azzarello, J. Michael Straczynski, Joe Kubert, Jae Lee, and Len Wein.
There has been some controversy over the years regarding the creative rights to the Watchmen ever since the debate for the movie rights was contested by creator Alan Moore, who refused to have any involvement in any of his creations, (including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) particularly Watchmen, being adapted into film. While both Marvel and DC Comics have been notorious in keeping the rights for their characters away from their prospective creators (i.e. Jack Kirby, and Todd McFarlane, just to name a few...), DC has also gone through many changes just in the last year. Back in September 2011, DC announced The New 52, where they relaunched and revamped their entire line of comic books. This created quite a stir in the comics world and made new all over the world making many fans both love and hate the changes. Among the other changes was the announcement that the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott was gay! The Before Watchmen series seems to the third and final blow for many fans who had already been dissident with DC Comics and some have even gone so far as to organize a boycott of the new series. I for one have been very disappointed with the recent changes, being a long time reader and fan of Batman and Green lantern titles. I have been a Watchmen fan since I first read it in the late 1990's and I especially enjoyed the 2009 movie although I always had lingering sympathy for Alan Moore's case. I decided to pick up the first issue of Minutemen mostly out of curiosity. I had enjoyed the art and story of Darwyn Cooke's DC: The New Frontier and found the first issue of Minutemen to be an interesting amalgamation of vignettes about some of the original heroes told by an aging Nite Owl (Hollis Mason, the original) in retrospect as he is writing his tell-all book "Under the Hood". The series also includes the side-story "The Curse of the Crimson Corsair", a pirate adventure very reminiscent of "The Tales of the Black Freighter" from the original Watchmen graphic novel. Before Watchmen will continue on throughout next year and will no doubt be another record breaking success for DC Comics as they try to compete for attention from Marvel's Avengers Vs. X-Men comics. It is unlikely that these prequels will be as ground-breaking or memorable as the original Watchmen. Perhaps it will gain notoriety and turn on more fans to read (or re-read) the originals. It certainly will not stop DC from reprinting it over and over again.

LINKS: Watchmen on Facebook