|WATCHMEN ala Jack Kirby by Mark Lewis|
Look, I'm going to leave it at this: What Alan Moore and DC have between them is up to them. None of us have ever seen the full details of that contract and we never will. It's a complicated situation and everyone who was involved in that will have to live with their decisions until the day they die. You can take sides, but quit judging the people who aren't on yours, all right?
Good. Now let's actually talk about WATCHMEN.
The one thing everyone seems to be in agreement on is that BEFORE WATCHMEN will not affect the original book. And it won't. The story will live on, and it will live on independently, and it will live on forever. I still love THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA, and I don't care what came before or what came after it. I love it.
But there is something else BEFORE WATCHMEN is actually going to affect. And that part bums me out
It's absolutely true of any genre, but it seems to me that superhero fans really prefer when things are spelled out for them. That's probably why origins are such a big thing. Novels and movies that don't involve superheroes don't really have to explain why every character is the way they are. They usually start with the characters already fully formed and they let the background and history creep in when necessary. As Neil Gaiman says:
"Begin with the story. Always begin with the story. (Unless you're Lud in the Mist.) The world is there for the story to happen in. Here and now, you don't need to tell the history of the world before you start telling a story that happened on the Isle of Man. You tell the story and let the background and the history creep in where it's needed. The same goes for worlds you've built yourself."
However, superhero fans like to start at the beginning of the story, and they tend to want every hole filled. I think it's a side effect of the fact that the main superhero universes are shared continuities, which, oddly, is also one of the strengths of those universes, when used properly. It's truly one of the things that make the DC Universe and the Marvel Universe unique.
One of the things that I and many other readers like about WATCHMEN is the fact that it really does stand out among superhero comics — especially superhero comics before then — as having that novelistic approach. For example, the Nostalgia perfume is seen only in the background — creeping in where it's needed — thus embedding itself into the readers' brains in a subtle manner.
So when Dan says it at the end, the effect is more powerful.
The series itself is full of bits that encourage healthy speculation and therefore discussion. For example, Rolf Muller is never actually revealed to be Hooded Justice. It's just very strongly hinted at, and it's very possible. But they don't come out and say it, and they don't confirm and deny it one way or another.
That's part of the beauty of WATCHMEN, because the whole point was to treat superheroes in a "realistic" manner. And more than grittiness, defecation, decapitation, and whatever else constitutes "realism" these days, I thought what really added to the realism was that we don't get full closure on anything. It's a very postmodern trope, and common, again, in other media. But that's part of what life is. We don't get full closure on anything, and we don't get all the answers. That, to me, really emphasized the point of WATCHMEN.
Further questions include why Sally Jupiter (Silk Spectre I) still engaged in sexual intercourse with Edward Blake (The Comedian), despite the fact the he attempted to rape her. This is a question that the narrative doesn't answer, and interestingly enough, when asked for explanations for these scenes, Moore himself would give very vague explanations, admitting that at that point in time, the characters had taken on lives of their own, and he was no longer dictating what they were doing so much as the other way around.
Why does Rorschach take off his mask the moment before he died? Does Ozymandias' plan work? What was up with Nite Owl and the Twilight Lady? What kind of life did Dr. Manhattan make afterward?
I don't know. But I can imagine. And that's part of the fun.
With healthy speculation comes discussion. Not all of us think of the same explanations; it doesn't work that way so it really encourages debate. It really makes us apply what we know of the human condition to these fictional characters.
At the end of it all, our answers end up saying more about us than about the work itself.
But that's part of what made WATCHMEN so good — that everyone had their own opinions, that it was so interactive. Now I know people say that if you don't want that to be ruined, you should just ignore BEFORE WATCHMEN, and I will (although, admittedly, some of that art is nice). I like the fact that I don't know all the answers, that I figure it out on my own, that you figure it out on your own, and that we can talk about it. I think it's better for the book, and I think it's better for me as a reader.
And that's really what bugs me about these prequels. Whatever questions they do answer, whatever holes they fill — and before you get on my case, I'm sure they won't answer everything — they're taking other people's interpretations and making them the official, canonical explanation.
I've long been an advocate of personal continuity in the stories I read. If I didn't like a story, it didn't "really" happen. SINS PAST never happened, of course, and Zenn-La never died. So frankly, ignoring these stories in terms of the original story and keeping the original story intact in my head will be easy enough. But what I will be sad about is that we will never be able to discuss WATCHMEN again without somebody going, "Well, as revealed in BEFORE WATCHMEN, this is the answer to question X."
Part of the beauty of WATCHMEN is that it encouraged thought and imagination, and now the people who will buy into BEFORE WATCHMEN may do that for BEFORE WATCHMEN, but they won't do that for WATCHMEN anymore. It doesn't change the original book, but it changes the dynamic of how people talk about the original book.
And that's what bums me out, because when it comes down to the original book, not only does it stand out because it has a novel-type approach, but when I talk about it with people, I really like the fact that it's all left entirely in our hands.
Having said all that, I still want to know when they're doing B FOR BLOOD FEUD.