There has been quite the uproar over the last few months about DC’s Before Watchmen prequel series. Spinning out of the timeless classic, Watchmen by Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons and colorist John Higgins, this new series will focus on each character from the original Watchmen team (wait for it) before the events of Watchmen. Surprising right?
Many people are against this series for different reasons but two stand out. There are those who feel that the story told in Watchmen was complete and we really don’t need any more stories continuing, before or otherwise. Then there are those who feel that DC comics has cheated Alan Moore out of the rights to the characters and are more-or-less avoiding this series has a form of protest.
Both are valid points because Watchmen is a story with a beginning, middle and an end; it wasn’t designed with any cliffhangers or lingering mysteries. Also the struggle of creators and their character ownership rights is a major debate in the industry today. From Siegel and Shuster to Bill Finger, Alan Moore is another name in a long list of people feeling deprived or cheated by the comics industry.
On the other hand there are people who either support the series or at the very least don’t have a real opinion. This group has valid arguments as well. They’ll tell you that we only saw a fragment of the story from this vast universe and there is still much to tell. They’ll say that Alan Moore should have read his contract closer or taken it to a lawyer. They’ll go on about how Moore has used other’s creations for his own gain in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and (to a lesser extent) Watchmen. Moore originally submitted the idea using characters DC had acquired from Charlton Comics but was convinced to create his own characters.
But regardless of what side of the fence you land on, most can agree that DC pulled out all the stops bringing some of the biggest names in the industry into this project: Darwyn Cooke, Brian Azzarello, Andy Kubert and J.G. Jones just to name a few from the list of all-stars.
So what is my point? Minutemen. Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen is the only Before Watchemn series we need. I promise.
For those who don’t know, the Minutemen were essentially the JSA to Watchmen’s Justice League. The group consisted of non-powered masked men and women, who in the early 1930’s started fighting crime as a team. The real only info we get about the Minutemen come as flashbacks from Sally Jupiter and excerpts from the book, Under the Hood by Hollis Mason, the original Nightowl.
So why is Minutemen the only Before Watchmen book we need? For starters when we start Watchmen, most of the Minutemen are dead. We get a little bit of info about the group before we move on to the characters in Watchmen. There is basically an entire generation of heroes summed up in a handful of pages.
There is actually a need for more story here and, more importantly, whatever happens in this story really won’t affect Watchmen. Frankly for most of Watchmen, the Minutemen story is there to provide us further backstory on the Comedian.
Secondly, Alan Moore intended to make a Minutemen sequel. These characters are really great. They are a rag-tag bunch consisting of genuine heroes and people who are in for the money and fame. The way these characters interact and what causes them to breakup are never fully explored.
Third, this is before Watchmen. It actually fits the title. We already know enough about the team Watchmen. There are holes in their stories but not enough that we’ve been demanding to know what happened between point a and b.
Finally, Darwyn Cooke’s writing and art style is perfect for a Minutemen prequel. His nostalgic look is the perfect contrast to Gibbon’s dark and gritty style. His art feels like a memory, all pristine and perfect but in fact full of dark corners and hidden secrets.
Darwyn Cooke has introduced these characters in fun ways and the dynamic between all of them is wonderful. They are going on adventures that call back to the golden age without being too cheesey. The characters are modern yet all at once, timeless. This story feels closer to what a prequel by Alan Moore would’ve been. Not a large mystery but a character study of the people who influenced the heroes in the original book.
If I was working at DC, I don’t think I would have even bothered with the rest of the Before Watchmen books. Those stories about those characters have been told. The only story we should want is Minutemen. I just hope what Darwyn Cooke has in store for the last four issues is as thrilling as what we got in the first two.