Nevs Coleman — 22-Jul-12
Well, of course I have an opinion on Before Watchmen. You have an opinion on it. Alan Moore has one. So does Dave Gibbons. And Paul Levitz. Dan Didio. I just thought I’d wait for everyone to stop shouting for a bit before proffering mine.
Obviously, this doesn’t need doing. Watchmen didn’t leave any loose ends in its story. It’s not like Affable Al left us with a cliffhanger on the scale of Luke finding out that Darth was his dad. The whole point is that the simplistic ideas of “Right” or “Wrong” that make up the dynamic of most superhero comics are obsolete. And there is no such thing as a resolution.
On the other hand, it’s just a comic. A really good one, but not actually a sacred text. If DC had gone round to all of our houses, swiped our copies of Watchmen and replaced them with this new version of the text, then yeah, that’d have been annoying. But like Dashell Hammett, I’ve just checked my bookshelf. Yep. All good. And let’s be honest, as sad as Dave and Al might be about all this, it’s surely a greater indictment of how creatively barren DC are in 2012.
I mean, I watched you all jump up and down with glee when DC announced their reboot. Saw you cream yourselves that Batgirl would be walking again, get annoyed that there would be no JSA comic. Was bemused by everyone buying the whole line as though DC saying “Right, Reboot!” had suddenly made all their output a billion times better. As one mate commented, “It’s still bloody Dan Jurgens, though, isn’t it?”
Here we are a year later, though, and it hasn’t really worked, has it? That sales spike is long gone, and we’re already back to crossovers and building up to big events. Loving All-Star Western and G.I. Combat though. Batwoman is as good as it would have been if it hadn’t been pushed back to be part of the Rebooty Boot.
Because the thing is, while DC and Marvel run around trying to hype the hell out of every possible convoultion they can to try and draw in that new readership generation that this business is going to need very soon, Archie Comics are basically pwning the media six ways from Sunday without even trying. Those of you who aren’t reading Dan Parent’s stuff are really missing out, by the way. Spider-Man doing a deal with Mephisto? Batwoman’s a lesbian? Northstar’s getting married? Really? Oh, by the way, Archie is making the choice between Betty and Veronica. Kevin Keller is getting his own comic. Archie and The Gang are teaming up with KISS. Hey, there’s Archie snogging Valerie on the front cover. One Million Moms are pissed off about the depcition of positive gay characters? One Million Moms are told that their close minded homophobia is obselete, hateful nonsense. By Toy’s R Us, no less. Oh, and all these comics are REALLY good stuff.
Tell me again that Peter Parker and Miles Morales meeting up is going to change the world. I could do with a laugh.
So, The Reboot didn’t do much more than cause a short sales spike and leave everything looking like a particularly bad Wildstorm comic from 1996. Vertigo has been a fangless damp squid coasting on its back catalogue for years now (with the exception of Pete Milligan’s Hellblazer). There’s only so many ways you can repackage the Alan Moore/Frank Miller/Neil Gaiman/Jeph Loeb + Tim Sale libraries before everyone on the planet has at least two copies of “Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?” on their shelves. I get why Before Watchmen. After all, it seems unlikely, from DC’s point of view, that there’s anything to be gained by keeping Alan sweet. So why not make the money?
So, what are they like?
I’m really enjoying them. All of them. I don’t want to, for obvious reasons. I want them to be cynical, badly-done rubbish, but they’re all so charming, so well crafted. Much like their source material, they bear rereading. There’s a lot going on. Unless something goes terribly wrong, this is going to end up being the best comic eventy thing since Seven Soldiers of Victory that either Marvel or DC have produced.
So I’m in a bit of a quandry here. Outside of the politics and outrage, these are excellent comics. Certainly up there. But I don’t want to encourage you to buy them new, because that’ll lead to reorders (which is the only thing publishers listen to, whatever else you might think), and because I don’t want this to be a success. (For those wondering, I neither bought my copies nor downloaded them. I stole them. Ha! No, I borrowed them, from the lovely people at 30th Century Comics for the purposes of this piece.) We know how DC work. If this does well, We’ll start seeing things like Dark Knight 2: The Lost Months or New Frontier: What Gloria Steinem Did Next and suchlike.
Nor is “Oh, it’s alright, I’ll download it’”a useful answer! You self-entitled fuckwits. You. My best suggestion is simply wait. Pop along to the comic marts. Dave’s Comics normally have boxes of recent comics and you’ll be able to pick them up super cheap. After all, you don’t need to read them right now, do you?
So, despite the endless pages written about Before Watchmen, it does exist. The collective of the First World rich children seem to be stunned that their saying “I DISAPPROVE OF THIS!” hasn’t stopped the publication of these comics. Thing is, I’m not buying Silk Spectre for the adventures of Sally Jupiter but for Amanda Conner and Darwyn Cooke. Why not kill some of the weaker DC titles (I’ll leave which ones to your discretion) and put that amount of effort, promotion and talent towards reviving the original Charlton characters that were the springboard for Watchmen in the first place. Note I said “springboard”. Suggesting that Watchmen’s success is only down to Alan using Captain Atom, Blue Beetle and the like is a bit like saying the only reason Dark Knight Returnswas any good was due to Stafford Repp’s fine, nuanced performance of a subtle Irish policeman during the 1960s.
Considering how much of the reboot was half baked stuff that almost should have a cover blurb saying “Stick me straight in your cheap buns!’, it was a shame to see the lovely First Wave cancelled to make room to publish the likes of Batwing, Red Lantern, Superman and Hawk and Dove. I know people don’t want to acknowledge this, but all companies have is a bunch of toys. It’s the people playing with them makes them interesting.
Maybe this time Grant Morrison won’t turn you down.