Thursday, March 1, 2012

Gingered Intensity - Volume 1: The Watchmen

Welcome to the Comicpalooza Blog's newest column, and welcome to our newest blogger, Andrew Williams.  What is Gingered Intensity about exactly?  Well comics mostly.....but it could also touch on films, industry news, or any other sort of madness that could come from the fiery head of Andrew.  Stay tuned for what is sure to be a fun ride and give Andrew a great big welcome to the Comicpalooza Blog. - Mark

     One of the only constants in comics is change, and that’s never been more apparent than now. If you’ll allow me a moment to introduce myself, my name is Andrew Williams and I’ve been reading comics for over 10 years, and have actively following the business for at least half that. Through all of that I’ve seen creators come and go, endless events, endless reboots. When I started reading comics, Geoff Johns was that guy that had just taken over writing The Flash after Mark Waid left. Kurt Busiek was nearing the end of his epic Avengers run, and a mostly unknown guy named Mark Millar launched a book called Ultimate X-Men with the Kubert Brothers. Needless to say, these guys have all reached a point where they are considered mainstays of the comics industry, all in all about 10 years time.
     I have creators I love, creators I like, creators I don’t like, and creators I really don’t like, but comics are a medium that I love dearly and they’ve been with me over half my life. So I’m here to offer my particular spin on some of the goings on in the comic industry whether it is commentary on controversial announcements, new events, Comicpalooza news or something completely different. With that out of the way, I say welcome and hope you stick around.
     In this particular edition, I’m going to look at one of the biggest announcements to shock the industry in recent memory, the announcement of DC Comics ‘Before Watchmen’ event. While the idea of a Watchmen sequel or prequel is not exactly an unheard of idea, this announcement itself being rumored for some time, it’s one of those things that’s just been seen over the years as something you just didn’t do. Watchmen stands on a pedestal as one of the greatest accomplishments in the industry, and it’s seen by many as being untouchable.
     So that asks the question, why? If you look at it objectively, it’s not hard too hard to see that Watchmen and its characters do hold a whole untapped history. Watchmen itself holds specific information and history for each character, but there’s quite a bit of potential to fill in some of the gaps, and it seems that is the goal of the prequels.
     Another big point is that Watchmen is a story with a start and an end, does that information need to be filled in? And more so, should it be filled in? At this point, the argument tends to point back to the issues Alan Moore has had with DC regarding the rights to Watchmen. Alan Moore has made it quite clear that he doesn’t approve of the contract he signed with DC over Watchmen originally; he doesn’t approve of the prequels themselves, and doesn’t hold DC or Marvel in very high regard. My understanding of the original contract holds that the rights to Watchmen would revert to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons once Watchmen had fallen out of print for a year, and then…it never did. Its popularity kept it in print. Though again, my understanding is that this agreement was fairly common for the time, and that Watchmen’s popularity was unforeseen at the time.
     So it becomes a moral crossroads at this point, you’ve got the creator of the book staunchly against it, but the company that owns the characters see’s the potential for more stories, and let’s be honest more money, to come from the Watchmen Universe. Looking around the internet, it’s not hard to see that the reaction is fairly split. With a significant group of those people being at least mildly interested in the creative teams DC has assembled for these books. It’s somewhat of a who’s who of the comic book industry.
     Leading the charge, in a way, is the Rorschach book, which is being written by crime noir expert Brian Azzarello, and drawn by his frequent collaborator, Lee Bermejo. To this particular reader, this seems like a perfect combination. Having read their work together on the Luthor miniseries and the Joker graphic novel, I can’t think of a better team to tackle Rorschach, if it must happen.
Another big highlight for fans is Darwyn Cooke writing and drawing a Minute Men book. This to me is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, book in the whole launch. The Minute Men have their moments in the book, but of all the characters, they’re the ones that probably have the most room for storytelling, and after Justice League: New Frontier, I can’t think of a better man for the job than Mr. Cooke.
Azzarello returns again, this time writing a Comedian mini-series, featuring J.G. Jones on art. Given the nature of the Comedian, Azzarello again seems like a perfect man for the job. J.G. Jones is also no slouch when it comes to art having handled art chores on the Marvel Boy series with Grant Morrison, Wanted with Mark Millar, and parts of Final Crisis, again by Morrison, as well as his extensive cover work on Doc Savage. It’s actually his Doc Savage covers that make me think he matches this best, as he brought a nice pulpy sense to those covers that I think will translate well to a Comedian tale.
Darwyn Cooke returns again to write a Silk Spectre series, drawn by fan favorite Amanda Conner. This is one of the combinations I didn’t see coming, but it makes sense to me upon thinking about it. Darwyn writes strong female characters, and Amanda Conner, known for Powergirl and Supergirl work, draws females in a way that makes them look strong, sexy, but not belittled. I think this series has the most potential to surprise people.
     Stepping in next is J. Michael Stracynski, known for his Spiderman and Thor work, as well as his…interesting runs on Superman and Wonder Woman that saw him leave both books before their conclusion. Either way, his work on Thor and Rising Stars was superb, so his work on these series intrigues me. First up, he has a Nite Owl series, drawn by the father-son team of Andy and Joe Kubert, (Joe will be at Comicpalooza for anyone interested.) Andy and Joe have collaborated briefly in the past, working with Len Wein to handle the Golden Age issues of DC Universe: Legacies and I think the style they bring will fit this series very well. Andy brings his dynamic storytelling, and his father’s inks give  the book a nice retro feel.
     Next for JMS is the Dr. Manhattan series, drawn by longtime cover artist Adam Hughes. This was another surprise for me as I can’t really remember the last time Adam Hughes did any real interior work. JMS spoke in depth about the Dr. Manhattan series in an interview with Comic Book Resources, and it seems he has a definite plan for the character, but given his recent output…it has more than a few readers concerned about what he’ll be bringing to the table.
     Last up sees the original editor of Watchmen, and creator of such characters as Wolverine and Swamp Thing, Len Wein, step in to write two series himself. First up, in another big surprise, sees Wein write an Ozymandias series, with longtime Marvel artist Jae Lee providing the art. Lee has mostly been seen at Marvel, doing artwork on the numerous Dark Tower series, as well as some Inhumans and Fantastic Four work, so to see him over at DC is something I look forward to.
     Last up, running in every book will be a 2 page Crimson Corsair backup story, written again by Wein, and drawn by original series colorist John Higgins.
     Needless to say, DC has assembled some of the best people in the industry to work on these books. So while the money to be made is definitely a factor, DC has at least made the effort to get the best people possible working on these books.
     That said, these are still not without concern. A big issue with some of this talent becomes timeliness. J.G. Jones, Adam Hughes, and JMS are all known for delays in their work, so many are unsure of the ability with of the talent to deliver the product in the weekly format DC claims they will. Given that, I haven’t seen Adam Hughes, J.G. Jones or JMS working on much of anything for the last several months, so there’s no telling how long they’ve been working on these books, so I remain cautiously optimistic regarding their ability to deliver.
     Also, should the prequels be successful, will it stop there? Should the prequels prove to be a runaway success…could it go further from there? Would we be seeing Watchmen 2? While Watchmen will always be Watchmen, if the market sees endless Watchmen related products flood the market…will the impact of the original Watchmen be affected? In this reader’s opinion, Watchmen will always be Watchmen, and the quality of that book will never diminish. However, if the market sees endless Watchmen related materials come out, the uniqueness of Watchmen may be forgotten.
     At the end of the day, Before Watchmen isn’t an event that everyone will get behind. Some like the idea on its own merits, some were sold by the creative teams, and others believe Moore should own it, while others think Watchmen said all it needed to and prequels aren’t needed. Will it sell well? Almost assuredly. Is it necessary? Maybe not, but with the teams they’ve assembled…I can’t help but be a bit curious for what they might put together.

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