Ever since comic books broke into the mainstream, fans have weathered systematic bastardization of their favorite series (Smallville, the Green Lantern and Captain America movies). Comic fans let out a collective “Et tu Brutus,” last week over DC Comic’s plan to release a prequel to the legendary series, The Watchmen—the next in this sad series of remakes.
The original Watchmen series, written by Alan Moore, drawn by Dave Gibbons, and colored by John Higgins, was released between 1986 and 1987 through DC Comics. The series featured a gang of vigilante superheroes, who during the Cold War tried to prevent a nuclear apocalypse, while also trying to balance their personal issues amongst each other. The series stands as one of the most defining comics of all time, elevating the medium to great literary and critical heights, and selling over 2 million copies worldwide; it is widely regarded as a smash hit. However, due to contractual bindings, DC has decided to release a prequel mini-series to The Watchmen, tentatively called Before Watchmen, without any of the original creators’ permission.
Moore, who is unabashedly antagonistic towards the new series as opposed to his more neutral co-creators, says that the prequel is “completely shameless.” In a recent statement, Moore said, “I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago.” Moore had a falling out with DC Comics in the past over the creative direction of the original series and the widely-panned feature film. Co-publishers of DC, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, defend the move saying, “It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant. After 25 years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told.” When asked if he would try to sue, Moore said that they’d come after him with “an infinite battery of lawyers.” He said, “I don’t want money. What I want is for this not to happen.”
Whether or not the move was an ethical one, done out of the best interest of the story, or for money, this new series is very much anticipated. The new editions have the potential to maintain the vision of the original while invigorating the series, much like The Dark Knightdid for Batman. But at the same time, it could wind up being the Star Wars episodes 1-3 of comics.This bring up the perennial debate, which transcends the genre of comics: should creators protect their legacy and let sleeping dogs lie, or should their ideas be drained for every penny they are worth, releasing sequels and movie adaptations at the expense of their original vision? God knows each Mission Impossibleis more painful than the last and the GodfatherParts III and IV should never have seen the light of day. The directors and writers of these continuations must know that what they’re doing is cheapening the original material into something that will be derided by critics and viewers alike.
Big screen producers should take a page from the new, exciting, and most importantly, original shows on television, like Breaking Badand Mad Men,that continue to stun critics with their cunning plots and relatable characters, and have gained millions of loyal followers. Although the creators of Alien vs. Predator 2should be locked away for all eternity, the consumers of this drivel are just as blameworthy for buying tickets to the first Alien vs. Predator. It boils down to this: if people are sick of the same rehashed trash, they need to stop supporting the endless cycle of sequels and demand something new, daring and devoid of derivation, supporting original ideas and creativity in American entertainment. Moore summarizes this point best: “As far as I know, there weren’t that many prequels or sequels to Moby Dick.” Sometimes it’s best to just let classic works be.