The internet, Comic Book’s hotter, younger brother, is flapping its gums all over the place about a reported (and only rumored) Watchmen prequel comic book series to be published at DC helmed by the steady hand of Darwyn Cooke.
There are as many questions to ask here as there are cyanide capsules in Adrian Veidt’s purple sports coat pocket…ya’ know, for tying up loose ends. CAN they do this, HOW will they do this, SHOULD they do this, and even HOW CAN they do this? What will Alan Moore say?
Don’t worry about Alan. Alan is comfortable, respected, wealthy, cynical, and will never, ever set his eyeballs on these pages. Worry about the guy in the hot seat here. Worry about Darwyn.
DC: THE NEW FRONTIER, Darwyn Cooke (W/A), DC
Darwyn Cooke is a great illustrator and writer who studied under Bruce Timm during the first Animated Batman show, though rose to prominence with his extremely readable graphic novel DC: The New Frontier. Set in post war America, New Frontier is essentially an Elseworld story to bridge the gap between the Golden and Silver age DC comic book worlds, though with more emphasis on drama, alienation, and historical context.
It looked great and it read great. DC ultimately loved it so much that they gave it the Absolute treatment: collecting it (as well as additional material) into a lovely, gigantic hard bound edition. DC then adapted it into the well received direct-to-DVD movie of the same name.
To say it stood on the shoulders of giants would be extremely kind. A more honest assesment would be to describe it as a pop culture mash-up of THE GOLDEN AGE; the dark but kick ass 1993 DC comic by James Robinson (W) and Paul Smith (A); and JLA: The Nail by Alan Davis. BOTH of these comics are SENSATIONAL, not to be missed comic books one should check out immediately!
The art in New Frontier is indicative of the story. It is a gorgeous, well-crafted, and reverent marriage of Jack Kirby and Bruce Timm. Darwyn’s hand is visible only in the stitching.
Since New Frontier Darwyn has had a model career, pleasing audiences and editors alike. He is as bankable as a check from Lex Luthor…but let’s be clear: he’s a craftman, not an Auteur.
Comics is a business, but it is a business that runs on originality. WILL prequel and sequel comics to Watchmen sell? Does Multiple Man have a room-mate?
But hey, they made a sequel comic to JLA: The Nail. It was…ok. The best you could say was it was that it was more of the same. They made a purely-for-profit sequel to The Dark Knight Returns that is, lest we forget, a God-awful mess. Every big event book gets little follow-ups to cash in…but so far, not Watchmen.
You can’t invent the modern Graphic Novel twice.
Comic Readers wanting Watchmen material can rest assured that Darwyn Cooke will give them what they want. Ultimately they want more of the same. No one can truly expect these Watchmen books to have as much innovation, they just want a second helping of Dr. Manhattan and pals. Watchmen Jr. is going to be definitively derivative.
DC will win in sales. Retailers will win in bringing in new readers. Some percentage of readers will be satisfied by what they get…unless these books stink on ice. IF they do, DC and Retailers will still sell comics. Sales are guaranteed and THAT is why it’s going forward. Like Rorschach’s fist into a rapist’s face, this thing is unstoppable.
At best they’ll be serviceable, cementing Darwyn’s reputation as the guy you call to re-tailor a suit of other people’s material. At worst they’ll be an enduring joke, and Darwyn will be the poster child for unoriginal hack work.
Except for the paycheck, it’s lose/lose for Mr. Cooke.
More musings from Unkiedev, Earth’s own sidekick, can be read at unkiedev.blogspot.com