|WATCHMEN creators Alan Moore (L) and Dave Gibbons c. 1986|
I’ve returned from the farflung future of 2014, in which remaindered copies of the trade paperbacks of the various Before Watchmen series are currently being used to build flood levees in Louisiana. Without Before Watchmen, New Orleans would have been destroyed again. Thanks, DC!
But what a tremendous prequel to writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons’s 1986-87 12-issue Watchmen limited series humanity got, despite the non-involvement of writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. While Before Watchmen will neither be listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 books of the century (as Watchmen was) nor become the best-selling graphic novel in history (as Watchmen was), it does offer many delightful surprises. Excelsior!
So here’s a spoiler-heavy rundown of the awesome delights that await you at your local comic-book shop in the summer of 2012.
Minutemen (6 issues), written and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke: The Minutemen engage in a number of exciting and life-affirming adventures that make absolutely no sense given what we saw of them in Watchmen.* In one of them, a 50-year-old Comedian defeats Cassius Clay in a boxing match.** Hoo ha, that’s attention to historical detail!
Rorschach (4 issues), written by Brian Azzarello, illustrated by Lee Bermejo: Rorschach shows how tough he is in various tough corners of New York over the years. Also, his ‘The End is Nigh’ sign finally gets a proper origin story. Guess what: it’s the secret hero of Watchmen! As with most recent Azzarello-penned projects, all four issues combined will take less than 5 minutes to read.
The Comedian (6 issues), written by Brian Azzarello, illustrated by J.G. Jones: The Comedian demonstrates how tough he is in various tough locales over the years, as he turns out to be behind the assassinations of Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Phillie Phanatic. As with most recent Azzarello-penned projects, all six issues combined will take less than 5 minutes to read.
Dr. Manhattan (4 issues), written by J. Michael Straczynski, illustrated by Adam Hughes: In order to reconnect with humanity, Dr. Manhattan starts walking across the United States***. However, he quits halfway through and gets someone else to finish the walk.****
Nite Owl (4 issues), written by J. Michael Straczynski, illustrated by Andy and Adam Kubert: Nite Owl discovers that his non-existent superpowers derive from The Owl Totem*****. Much brooding ensues. He loses an eye, but it grows back.****** At some point, he yells, “Not on my watch!”*******
Ozymandias (6 issues), written by Len Wein, illustrated by Jae Lee: 6 issues of hardcore, photorealistically rendered gay sex. The big surprise of the Before Watchmen event.
Silk Spectre (4 issues), written by Darwyn Cooke, illustrated by Amanda Conner: Silk Spectre’s giant boobs******** take part in a variety of exciting adventures with life-affirming conclusions.
Curse of the Crimson Corsair (backup), written by Len Wein, illustrated by John Higgins: This is the story that’s the comic-book equivalent of having a Beatles reunion with only Ringo Starr and George Martin involved, as original Watchmen editor Len Wein and original Watchmen colourist John Higgins give Watchmen fanatics the pirate story they’ve been waiting 25 years for, though what they were hoping for involved some combination of Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and the late Joe Orlando.
Before Watchmen: Epilogue (1 issue), various writers and artists: Surprise! The Epilogue to Before Watchmen is a lavishly recoloured Watchmen that slathers the art you loved in layers and layers of quasirealistic full-process colour! Written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons, and coloured by the Computronic Colouring Robot 3000.
* Darwyn Cooke just did an interview in which he said Watchmen wasn’t great because it wasn’t hopeful and optimistic enough.
** As a decrepit Golden-Age hero Wildcat does in Cooke’s Justice League: The New Frontier.
*** As Straczynski had Superman do in the recent Grounded storyline.
**** Straczynski quit the Grounded storyline less than halfway through, leaving writer Chris Roberson to try to clean up the mess.
***** As Straczynski had Spider-man discover the same about The Spider Totem.
****** Something Straczynski did to Spider-man during his run on the title.
******* A favourite saying of characters on Straczynski’s Babylon 5.
******** Amanda Conner just got done a stint drawing DC’s Power Girl, aka the DC superheroine with the world’s largest breasts.