Who Watches The Watchmen?

Last month, DC Comics announced a series of controversial prequels to, possibly, the most influential comic mini-series of all time: The Watchmen.  The prequels are:

  • 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

This is probably going to sound controversial, but I didn’t particularly enjoy the original Watchmen series.  I never read it when it was released (though I’ll never forget the brilliant advertising campaign) and never managed to get to it until the early 2000s.  It was actually DC’s 52 that caused me to finally read Alan Moore’s masterpiece.  I loved the Question in 52, and I wanted to see if Rorschach compared.

Reading Watchmen nearly 20 years after it was released was interesting.  There was no sense of shock for me as there likely was for readers in 1986.  I’ve been through the 90s (I’m going through them again, thanks to the DCnU) and I’ve read The Boys.  Nothing can shock me.  Without that aspect, I was left only with the story, the characters and the writing style to judge the book.  2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

I love the concept of the Watchmen, and the characters (based on old Charltan characters) are wonderful.  But the execution just bored me.  The pacing was an agony, to the point that it distracted me from the story.  It was great, in the same way that Brave New World is great, but I never want to read that novel again.  I can appreciate its importance, but that doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the experience of reading it.  I felt the same way about Watchmen.

I saw the movie and thought it was brilliant.  It had the best opening sequence of any movie I’ve ever seen, and the British slowness of the book was nowhere to be found.  I have the impression that this is not a popular opinion, but I really don’t care.  I also own the DVD of Breakfast of Champions.

I was content with my Watchmen experience after the movie, but with this announcement about the prequels, I have to admit that I am intrigued.  I mean, Darwyn Cooke on Minutemen?  On the other hand, I haven’t been too thrilled about the new direction for DC (or their terrible new logo), so I have my doubts that this will be any good.  I’m cautiously optimistic.

As for Alan Moore and the creator’s right issue, all I can say is that Watchmen was work for hire.  When I wrote for Star Trek, I signed away the rights to my stories, including my original characters.  That was part of the deal if I wanted to play in that sandbox.  Furthermore, the Watchmen characters are all based on Charltan characters, so they are not exactly original concepts.  It doesn’t bother me that DC is publishing these stories, but it will be a major letdown if they suck.  The sequel to the Dark Knight Returns, for instance, was among the worst books I have ever read, and if this turns into The Watchmen Strikes Again, I will not be happy.

How do we feel about this?