There's a case to be made for and against DC Comics' upcoming brash move to make Before Watchmen, the prequel series to the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons legendary classic story Watchmen. Moore makes the case against it, including comments in a piece over at Fast Company:
My reaction [to the prequels] is a certain degree of weary contempt. It’s gone beyond anger. It’s almost tragically comical. It’s commerce over art. I’m proud of the work I did on Watchmen, but it’s surrounded by such a toxic cloud of memories. I wish I didn’t have to go through them. I don’t even have a copy of the book in the house.
It seems a bit desperate to go after a book famous for its artistic integrity. It’s a finite series. Watchmen was said to actually provide an alternative to the superhero story as an endless soap opera. To turn that into just another superhero comic that goes on forever demonstrates exactly why I feel the way I do about the comics industry. It’s mostly about franchises. Comic shops these days barely sell comics. It’s mostly spin-offs and toys.
I don’t think it’s going to work. From what I hear, there’s a certain degree of comic creators’ hostility and negative feedback posting on entertainment sites. Some people are writing petitions. I would have never have asked any of the readers to do that, but I’m genuinely grateful. It’s not a kind of reaction I can ever remember from a readership before. I would have thought, from a DC perspective, that’s it’s a lose-lose perspective, unless they did something better or as good as Watchmen. But realistically, that’s not going to happen, otherwise it would have happened before.
Those are comments Moore made last November, when it was still just a rumor. Today, DC Comics gave FC a new promotional image of one of their series, and mounted another defense of their side of this story. Co-publisher Dan DiDio offered this statement:
We sought out the very best writers and artists for Before Watchmen. This is a talented, fearless group who doesn’t play it safe. They are the perfect fit creatively for this ambitious project. There’s no denying that Alan Moore is one of the great comic book writers. Dave Gibbons is one of the truly great artists in the industry. Neither of them are participating in Before Watchmen, but we appreciate Dave Gibbons’ support. We know this project will be under the magnifying lens. Watchmen is a critical favorite, a cultural touch point. We believe when fans see the issues this summer, they’ll be as excited as we are today.
Co-publisher Jim Lee added one of his own:
One of the key characteristics of the comic book medium is that it is not brought to life by just one voice. These universes are developed and evolved by multiple creative voices, over multiple generations. The influx of new stories is essential to keeping the universes relevant, current, and alive. Watchmen is a cornerstone of both DC Comics’ publishing history and its future. As a publisher, we’d be remiss not to expand upon and explore these characters and their stories. We’re committed to being an industry leader, which means making bold creative moves.
Perhaps the best burn comes from Moore, though – as you might expect, being the writer he is – in comparing the "cultural barrenness" of the pop culture landscape today, exemplified by the Before Watchmen project:
The same is true of music and cinema. It seems that every movie is a remake of something that was better when it was first released in a foreign language, as a 1960s TV show, or even as a comic book. Now you’ve got theme park rides as the source material of movies. The only things left are breakfast cereal mascots. In our lifetime, we will see Johnny Depp playing Captain Crunch.
Hah… it's funny because it might be true. Although it will probably be Tom Cruise.
Here's the first look at Darwyn Cooke's team of Minutemen.