Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Laughing last

I’ve been having a bit of a tough time concentrating today, as the weather forecast was for snow, which tends to play havoc with the VRE and its exposed-to-the-elements rails. Said havoc generally takes the form of a slow crawl, true, but today is one of my days to pick up the kids from daycare and therefore getting home expediently is kind of important. At this very moment, it hasn’t started snowing yet, and if it holds off for another hour or so I should be all right. But in the meantime, I keep glancing nervously out the window every twenty minutes or so, and a profound and meaningful blog post has (unsurprisingly) failed to materialize under those circumstances.

So lacking anything really deep to haul out and overthink, I might as well weigh in on the latest geekosphere brouhaha, which is the recent announcement that DC Comics is going to publish new stories set in the world of the Watchmen, set (by necessity) in the same time periods as some of the flashback sequences in the landmark original series, since a true sequel set after the events in the seminal story would be (even more) pointless. The original creators of Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, are not involved creatively with these prequel-y tie-in naked cash grabs. Gibbons is supposedly pretty cool with them, though; notoriously cranky Moore is not.

I’m of two minds about it. They are transparent attempts to milk fans for more money. They may very well be inferior, head-scratcher trifles at best or aggravatingly awful at worst. I don’t think they represent an artistic crime against Moore as a person or Watchmen as a book, and would just as soon see them judged on their own merits and flaws as opposed to whether or not they stand up to comparison with their forebear (doubtful) or whether or not they tarnish its legacy (only if you let them, is my pre-emptive take).

I’m also certainly not going to rush out and buy all of the new Before Watchmen comics as they’re released, not only because I’m really out of the weekly comics shop habit but because the idea of exploring or deepening that world doesn’t appeal to me all that much. I’m not standoffish from the idea because I’m taking some kind of moral highground about creators’ rights or the integrity of classics or anything like that. I’m just not salivating at the thought of Watchmen spinoffs, not even to the same minor degree I was salivating in anticipation of the Watchmen movie a couple years ago (which I ended up acquiring the director’s cut of on DVD, but have yet to actually get around to viewing, read into that what you will).

But at the same time, it’s such an unusual, arguably unique moment in the history of American comics, that I have a high level of curiosity about the execution, if not the content. And, admittedly, a little bit of that undying collector’s need to hold a bit of the moment physically in my hands. And if I were going to fork over a few bucks just to get my own first-hand experience of what-were-they-thinking, I already know which title would end up in my collection:

I'm honestly amazed we haven't seen more 'reboot = rape' jokes, considering.
And not because it’s the perviest cover (not just because of that, at any rate). What occurs to me is that, within the narrative of the original Watchmen, Comedian is the archetypal sellout. When the conflict came down to the government on one side and masked mystery men on the other, Comedian betrayed his teammates and became a lackey of The Man. It’s one of the dominant themes that defines him in the story.

Now we get Before Watchmen, which is fully deserving of having the term “sellout” bandied about in the same breath. Just how meta will the sellout miniseries about the most sellout character in Watchmen end up being? It’s very possible that it could wind up subtext-free and just superficially expound upon how Eddie Blake became a high-level CIA assassin and put on some weight. But there’s also the potential there for some crazy self-aware inside jokes – it is the Comedian, after all. I could see giving that a whirl.

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