So you may be wondering where the freight train of Geekademia posts has gone, as it’s currently whittled down to just a few Animation Blocks and such. Well, we haven’t gone away. We’re still active, and it is our hope to bring you a great deal more high quality entertainment in the near future. This month, for example, I plan to do a series I’m calling “Genre Love Stories,” about characters I consider to be good examples of romantic partners in the realm of geekdom. You may have also noticed that Frank and his talented organization have begun posting our podcasts at long last, and it’s our hope that in short time, they’ll be released with great speed (as we have a rather huge backlog of episodes waiting to share with you, our public). We also have upcoming interviews with comic and novel author Chris Roberson, internet reviewer Elisa Hansen, novelist Daniel Polansky, and (probably) webcomic guru Rich Burlew! Keep your ears open for these, as they’re sure to kick a whole lot of ass.
Now, there is one major thing that happened today which I cannot ignore, and that is the fact that DC has announced prequels to Watchmen.
Of course, anyone who knows me knows quite well that Watchmen has long been a very important book to me, and one I hold in very high esteem. Since Alan Moore is steadfastly against the prequels, it would make sense that I would be frothing with nerd rage about this, wouldn’t it?
And yet, I can’t say I am.
The fact is, sooner or later, this was going to happen. Right or wrong, someone was eventually going to say, “Hey, this thing sold gangbusters, let’s get the palookas in the bullpen to moxy it up, Broadway style (that’s how I imagine all decision-makers in the entertainment industry talk)!” DC has all but said that they’re in trouble financially, and in order to preserve their jobs, the jobs of their subordinates, and keep making their remaining fans happy, they would likely say they have to make decisions that will earn them money, even if it hurts some feelings. Given that, I suppose I mainly just hope the new works are good, and know that if they aren’t, I don’t actually have to read them.
Does Watchmen need prequels? Of course not. It stands perfectly well on its own, its arcs, motifs, and themes were perfectly realized in the work itself. All that remains is more details and more adventures. In some circumstances, adding more details and more adventures is fine, since many comics, even most, are about the details and the adventures. I would say that Watchmen is not about those things, though. It’s a story about human motivation, what exceptional power does to one’s sense of humanity, and what, if anything, makes life sacred. I’m not against stories that are just about busting up badguys, but Watchmen isn’t really about that. It matters far less to Watchmen that Nite-Owl and Rorschach once defeated the Underboss in the sewers of NYC than that, in the end, one of them chose to keep a horrible secret and the other did not. If it’s simply about more adventures, I can’t imagine these books being anything other than bad, or at best pointless.
At the same time, these are very deep characters, most of them rooted in a complex philosophy taken to its logical extreme. If the new stories can shed further light on that and make us think at least somewhat in the way the original Watchmen did, then perhaps they could be good after all.
As to what I actually think will happen, these will be a mixed bag, probably mostly mediocre with a few snippets of goodness in some of them. Everyone involved here knows that they’re treading on very tumultuous ground, so they’re going to play it reverent, which means few risks. A story must be at least a little risky in order to be good, but at the same time, a poorly-considered risk on such a beloved property will create an extraordinary amount of vitriol that will probably follow the creator involved for awhile. Few risks will mean something safe and serviceable, which, considering it’s Watchmen, will generally be seen as not good enough, even there are good parts. Most will probably be forgotten or ignored within a year or two.
As to Alan Moore’s feelings, well, I won’t deny that they count for something, but let’s be honest: he’s not going to be happy no matter what. Even if they gave him back the rights tomorrow, he’d still probably be bitter, and he’d never actually do anything with the characters, as he’s said he’s absolutely sick of Watchmen and doesn’t even have a copy anymore. I have weighed where I stand on this over and over, and in truth I just don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong. Is DC just a bunch of greedy corporate vampires trying to drain the blood from their last great bastion of untouched art, or are they using every weapon in their arsenal to help keep a dying industry afloat? Is Alan Moore a beleaguered genius who simply deserves to have his masterpieces left alone, or is he a hypocritical old crank for assuming his work-for-hire should never be touched when he himself creates much from the works of others? It’s probably somewhere in the middle, but I simply am not the one to make that call.
All I know is that this is going to happen, no matter what anyone says, and while I don’t feel I owe anything to these new stories, least of all my money, I would at least be happy if they were good, because more good stories in the world, no matter what form they take, is never a bad thing.