On February 1st DC Comics announced a line of prequels to Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ much celebrated series Watchmen. Entitled Before Watchmen, the series will appear in comic shops this summer and feature adventures by the original Minutemen, Nite Owl, Ozymandias, The Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan, Rorschach, and The Comedian. Shortly after DC’s reveal, Alan Moore discussed his feelings towards these prequels in a video interview, denouncing them and even calling the project “completely shameless.” Considering Moore’s stance towards Hollywood’s adaptations of his titles – V for Vendetta, From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Watchmen – it is really no surprise.
The response to DC’s new Watchmen books has been mixed. Some fans are siding with Moore, claiming the series is a travesty that will fail while others, especially Dan DiDio and Jim Lee from DC Comics, insist it is not in bad taste. Lee and DiDio stated that “after 25 years the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told,” and went to argue that “one of the key characteristics of the comic book medium is that it is not brought to life by just one voice,” and is rather a collective continuum where multiple voices lend their talent to a particular title or character. However, is that necessarily the case when it comes to a book like Watchmen? Is it possible this is just an attempt to drum up book sales by creating a new comic book universe that should be left alone?
In the article Alan Moore is Wrong About ‘Before Watchmen,’ author Mark Hughes claims Moore is “being a complete hypocrite.” Hughes’ criticism of Moore’s vehemence towards the Before Watchmen series stems from the notion that Moore’s output falls within similar lines and he is guilty of lifting established characters and using them for his own benefit, most notably in Lost Girls (featuring characters from Peter Pan and other literary works), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (containing famous literary characters such as Captain Nemo, Professor Moriarty and Dorian Gray among many others) and Watchmen (originally based on characters from the Charlton Comics company, which DC acquired shortly before Moore penned Watchmen). Hughes lambasts Moore by stating “this man [Moore] frankly made a career in comics using other people’s characters and works, and is angry about the reuse of characters whom he explicitly modeled – in very obvious ways – on other people’s existing characters and work.” However, Hughes’ commentary on Moore’s reaction seems shortsighted, ignoring the differences between what Moore did and what DC is doing: in essence, Before Watchmen is not creating something new from something old; instead it is just piggybacking off another story but leaving out the creative spark and the originality making Moore’s Watchmen so potent. It is adding to the mythology of Moore’s world instead of contributing a new and substantial piece to the comic book canon.