This is as good a time as any to reveal that my favorite incarnation of Hal Jordan was the contemplative, grey-templed wanderer by Gerard Jones and Pat Broderick. Which is another way of saying that’s when I first started reading his book regularly. I’ve learned enough about the character in the following years that I can appreciate why it might not be everyone’s favorite interpretation, but that’s a whole ‘nother subject for a whole ‘nother day.
Right now, we might as well mention Before Watchmen, since it likely won’t be showing up again in the comic until the actual books are upon us. It’s obviously been causing quite a number of debates online, some of them reasoned and high-minded, others stupid and completely missing the point. I’m not interested in starting another one (though if you’d like to do so in the comments section, please do, we could use the hits), and I don’t have the energy anymore to get worked up about anything Marvel or DC does, but I’ll briefly state where I stand just to get it out there: artistically speaking, it’s misguided, to say the least.
There is a very simple reason why this is even a question; why anyone would have any kind of negative feeling towards this idea simply on the face of it. It’s not because this is a cheap cashgrab first and foremost, because let’s face it, that describes the majority of superhero comics. It’s not about copyright or respecting creators, because the bulk of fandom was sick of those arguments long before this was announced. It’s not a perception that these prequels will be half-assed, because there’s some major-league talent at play here. Darwyn Cooke’s books will almost certainly have something worth seeing in them, even if the project itself is wrongheaded.
The reason is this: the power of Watchmen is that it is a self-contained work. That’s what sets it apart, what makes it an Important Thing. If the story in Watchmen had comprised the first 12 issues of an ongoing series, it would have been just as good, but it wouldn’t be as significant. It would be held in the same regard as the Kirby Fantastic Four and Ditko Spider-Man; brilliant company to be in, don’t get me wrong, but the Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus doesn’t share the same venerated status as Watchmen (whether you think it should or not). The strength of those comics is the character of Spider-Man. The strength of Watchmen is THAT story. The same thing that keeps Watchmen viable today, the same thing that legitimizes it in the minds of people who don’t like comics in general or superhero comics in particular, is what makes a series of prequels seem almost completely beside the point.
And besides, Dan Didio refers to the characters as “the Watchmen”, which should sort of clue you in to the mindset behind all this. It sort of brings to mind some executive at 20th Century Fox referring to John McClane as “Die Hard” while he pitches the next sequel, Die Hard vs. Thieves Pretending to be Terrorists in Hawaii.
Quotable quotes from the world of comics:
“Lest anyone be confused by PR flack, Watchmen was not a “universe.” It was a BOOK.”