Thursday, February 2, 2012

OK, so the Watchman thing...

I've seen this rumble around my twitter feed (oooh, get him!) for the last couple of days and as my thoughts on the matter are not easily broken into 140-letter chunks, I thought I should get it off my chest here.

So, the story is that DC have announced the creative teams and covers (which can be seen here) and as you might expect the Internet has exploded in it's usual confused and vaguely angry way. Some people a cross because they are doing Watchmen prequels. Some people are cross because of the people doing the Watchmen prequels. Some people are cross because other people are getting cross about the Watchmen prequels.

No-one actually knows what they're going to be about, how the supposed "interlinking" is going to work, or has read a single page of them. Hear that? It's the sound of a Hundred Thousand Knees Jerking as one.

Here's the thing - Watchmen means a lot to comics fans. It means a lot to me. It's a great work of art, by a great writer and a great artist. Its been constantly in print since it was written and is read by people who "don't read comics" - it routinely turns up on "Best Ever Novels" lists. It is that good and deserves that reputation. On the other hand, I don't see why those characters and universe must remain inviolate and never touched again. Watchman isn't great because of it's universe - it's great because of how it tells it's story and how it handles it's characters, and how it approaches superhero comics as a grown up, storytelling medium.

The most common complaint I've seen is that Alan Moore created the characters and "should" be involved. Now Alan Moore is not someone who needs random denizens of the internet to fight for him, and I'm sure if he has a strong opinion on the matter we'd all know about it. But we do - he's repeatedly said he'd put all that behind and he doesn't care any more - and quite right too, in my opinion. And these were adapted characters in the first place - used to dissect and analyse trends in comic book heroes, not hugely original concepts but hugely original uses. (Also, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lost Girls. So that's enough about using other peoples characters on the Alan Moore front, OK?)

The second complaint is that Watchmen is a complete story and any else is unnecessary. I have some sympathy with this point - Watchmen nested ambiguities are part of it's strength and shining a light on those does feel unnecessary, even more given the frequent flashbacks in the books. And there is certainly an argument that the advertising budget and talent behind these books could just as easily launch something new into the comics world, more original stories, in an era where mainstream comics feel a little stagnant - certainly it is unlikely these will make the sort of impact on the industry the original did.

But this isn't a reason to dismiss them out of hand - the comics industry is built on retelling of the same stories with the same characters in different ways. All the big characters shift and change over the years in response to new writers and artists, and changing times and trends. If DC want to try and make the Watchmen universe somewhere they can tell more stories, then good luck to them, frankly, it's a big ask of the creative teams they've assembled.

But let's wait till they're actually written, eh?