Before Watchmen: Concerns and First Impressions

June 29, 2012

Hello to all you good people out in internet land.  I’m still alive.  It just seems that I am capable of producing only one of these posts every year or so.  I really intend to remedy that soon.  A lot has changed in the last year.  The biggest change is that I am now a college graduate living in my home town of Durham, North Carolina.  I am currently looking for work within communications/marketing/PR and hope to find something soon.

While I haven’t been blogging about comic books recently, I have been doing a lot of work about comic books.  During my senior year at the University of Rochester I completed a Senior Thesis under the guidance of Professor Norah Rubel called Apocalypse Nu.  This thesis postulated that the creation of the super-hero archetype beginning in comic books in 1938–and throughout the Golden Age of Comic Books–can be seen as a modernization and continuation of the Jewish themes found in apocalyptic writings dating back to the Second Temple Period.  I hope to present some of the work right here as soon as I am done with my initial posts about the history of comic books if I ever finish them.

I also continued to work at Park Avenue Comics & Games until my move in May.  We came into some great collections while I was there including a serious selection of books featuring first appearance of Silver Age Batman villains.  We also attended the Wizard World Toronto Comic Convention in March.  While there, we picked up some great stuff for the store and our own collections (a post about my haul is in the works.  I hope to have it posted before the time I have grey hair…).  If you are ever in Rochester, New York (and you aren’t frozen stiff) I suggest you stop by the shop.  Not only does the shop have a great selection of comic books, games, collectables, and other weird/cool stuff, it is one of the only comic books shops in the whole world that doesn’t give off that unpleasant we-haven’t-seen-the-light-of-day-in-years vibe so often associated with geek stores.

I am lucky enough to still be able to get my comics from the store.  They are shipped to me every two weeks and often include little surprises slipped in (like Dynamite’s Pantha #1).  I mention this arrangement because in this week’s shipment I received the first three books of DC’s Before Watchmen event.  For those of you who don’t know (is there anyone?), Watchmen was a twelve-issue limited series published by DC from 1986-1987.  It features brilliant art by Dave Gibbons and the unparalleled genius of Alan Moore’s writing.  If you haven’t read it GO READ IT NOW!

Seriously. Like, right now!

Are you back?  Good.  It was fantastic, right?  There is a reason that Watchmen is considered to be a classic.  It is easily my favorite super-hero story of all time and arguably one of the best comics ever written.  I first read Watchmen when I was about 14 years old.  I had borrowed it from a friend who had recommended it to me.  I read through it in one sitting, gripped in a way that no comic book or book had ever done to me before.  When I finished it I closed it and sat still for a few moments letting it all sink in…at which point I turned the book over and read it again.  I won’t spend time analyzing the book here (maybe I will in a future post?  I just create work for myself…); instead I will give my first impressions of the Before Watchmen event and set the stage for my coming reviews of the individual books that comprise the event.

As the name suggests Before Watchmen takes place, well, before the events of Watchmen.  The event consists of seven titles, each with between four and six issues.  Each book focuses on one of the heroes from Watchmen, therefore the titles are Comedian, Nite OwlRorschach, Silk Spectre, Ozymandias, and Dr. Manhattan.  There is also a book entitled Minutemen which focuses on the super-team from the 1930s and 1940s.  Each book contains a two page chapter of The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, a nautical tale which parallel’s Tales of the Black Freighter from the original Watchmen.

I must admit when I first heard about this event I was not excited.  In fact, at first, I was pretty angry about it.  I felt that DC was cashing in on sacred (to a geek) material.  In my estimation, the most beautiful thing about Watchmen was that it was finite.  In a scant twelve issues Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons were able to flesh out a story so intricate and captivating, full of characters so fragile and real that it consistently tops lists of greatest comic books (and book-books).  The idea that other creative teams were going to invade this universe–this sacred space–25 years later was more than I could stand.  I had felt the same way when Watchmen finally came to the big screen in 2009.  I felt (and still feel) that it had been called “the unfilmable comic book” for a reason.  And while I own a copy of the film (the deluxe director’s cut in fact) it has always seemed a crude attempt to copy greatness and therefore exists as an entirely separate entity from Watchmen the book in my mind.  Perhaps on its own I could consider it an enjoyable, even good, film, but when stacked up against the source material it–in my opinion–not only falls flat but also seems profane.

But Before Watchmen, much like the film, got under my skin and I just had to know what it was about, perhaps more so out of morbid curiosity than genuine interest.  So I added it to my pull list.  Seven titles, each with four to six issues…at $3.99 a pop.  Good show, DC!  You got me.  The first three, Minutemen, Comedian, and Silk Spectre showed up on my doorstep this week.  I read them and decided that I wanted to post about them here.  Because I have a blog and I should post on it sometimes.  I’m hoping to review each book in it’s own post in a timely (hah!) manner.  Hopefully I’ll have a new post soon.  But you know me…

I am the worst.

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