February 2nd, 2012
If DC is so determined to get new Watchmen material out, why not this?
I’m with Andrew Weiss on this; putting out prequels to Watchmen is only slighty less obnoxious than imagining a need for a prequel to Maus, but so much other cultural landmarks, both high and low, have been remade in the past few decades that it was only time before Watchmen got its turn. It’s what happens when “intellectual properties” (ugh) are owned by companies only interested in the next sure thing, the next bestseller, who know full well that whatever internet outrage there is today, many of the same people will end up buying these things anyway, curious as they are to see what a Darwyn Cooke (retro kitsch with little originality) or a J. Michael Straczynski (let’s hope it’s not a long miniseries) will make of it. Few comics fans can tell shit from shinola anyway, not when presented in a $99 Absolute Edition Hardcover.
In the end, what remains impressive is how long it took DC ultimately to throw all their scruples to the wind and do what they’ve been wanting to do ever since Watchmen turned out to be a hit, to do what’s in the company’s DNA, what they always do when they have a hit: exploit the hell out of it and get more like it out there on the stands. It’s what comics publishers have always done, chase the trends, sling shit to the wall and if it sticks, sling more. At the time they barely and only halfhearted recognised that not doing this would be more profitable this time, though not before driving away Moore himself. What DC finally realised was that Watchmen, along with The Dark Knight Returns and Swamp Thing, as well as a handful of lesser titles gave them prestige, a reputation as a the more creator friendly and innovative of the Big Two. They got themselves a boatload of British writers, people like Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison and Pete Milligan et all to repeat the magic that Moore got going with Watchmen, got it with Sandman and ultimately got Vertigo, a whole line of slightly off kilter not quite superhero titles for those who had outgrown the DC universe, the one really smart bit of business DC has gotten together in the past four decades. The rest of the company may have been just as dumb and exploitative as Marvel (who never got as much credit for Epic as DC did for Vertigo) or Image at their worst, but Vertigo made it acceptable.
But the American comics industry still crashed and burned and nobody but Steve Bissette still cares about creators right and self publishing and boycotting Marvel for its treatment of Jack Kirby and its heirs. And Watchmen, which had remained in print and a steady seller for the company all those years turned hot again, what with the movie and everything and the old itch to exploit it better, to get people to not just buy new and more deluxe versions of it popped up again. More than a quarter of a century after its original publication it’s finally safe to give into it, even if it’s pointless. The suits will have their way, the second rate talent making the comics will think they’re making art or doing a homage and that DC will still respect them in the morning, the fans will lap it up anyway.