Before Watchmen: The Clock Strikes Midnight
After a year of publication, the clock has struck midnight for the Before Watchmen line of books. Before Watchmen Comedian #6 was released this past week, which officially ended the line. There were rumors that an epilogue issue was going to be released, but DC seems to have swept that rumor under the rug. But looking back on the past year, can we decisively say that this event was a success? Yes…….but mostly no.
Many dropped interest in the event after Minutemen and Silk Spectre ended. These two books were great examples of how new writers could build on classic comics. It was a great idea to lead off with these books. They built on the material that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created, while respecting it as well. But after those, the titles were forgettable. The artwork was stellar in every issue, giving current superstars room to shine. Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner, and Adam Hughes penciled some of their best issues to date. The rest of the artists turned out great stuff as well. Many went with the nine panel structure that Gibbons made famous, but some used other templates to great success. But great artwork doesn’t translate into great stories.
The writing (sans Minutemen and Silk Spectre) was ok at best. Comedian languished in trying to make Eddie a twisted man because of Vietnam, but it never clicked. Ozymandias was downright boring at times. Dr. Manhattan was good. Nite Owl was more focused on Rorschach than it’s namesake character. Rorschach was a forgettable tale for the most famous character from Watchmen. The Moloch and Dollar Bill books weren’t even needed. The main problem that a lot of these books had was the length of their series. Comedian and Ozymandias did not need to be six issue series. That was DC trying to get as much money as possible.
The main thing that can be taken away ] this event is that controversy breeds sales. Fans were divided on the series before it released, with some going as far as not buying DC comics in defiance of their decision. While that didn’t affect the sales (right away), it did show that controversy alone won’t sell comics. The product needs to be high quality to continue selling. Controversy won’t sell comics for a year. When looking at other books that had big controversies, like Superior Spider-Man at Marvel, we see that controversy plus good reviews. And that title has been selling well since it’s launch. The sales were great for the event in the beginning. For the first three months or so, Before Watchmen books dominated the top 10. Slowly but surely, the title dropped in sales. By December of last year, the titles plummeted. The event couldn’t sustain itself. Many sites stopped reviewing the books, including this one.
I bought every issue of Before Watchmen, because I wanted to see everything that DC was going to do with these legendary characters. A good part of me regrets this, because I spoke with my wallet, and told DC that I wanted more. After reading most of these series more than once, I can safely say I do not. It was a good experiment, but the result was blah. When Before Watchmen was announced, I stood firm in my opinion that we need to read the books before we make an opinion. They could be great and build onto the original story well. Unfortunately, I have to eat my words. If you haven’t read any Before Watchmen books, just read Minutemen. It’s as close to Watchmen as you’ll get.
DC gets an A for effort, but a D+ in execution for Before Watchmen.