Brian: Well, David, I can hardly believe it, but here we are: the start of “Before Watchmen” is a mere 48 hours away! The most simultaneously anticipated and reviled series of the year is kicking off this Wednesday with the release of “Before Watchmen: Minutemen” #1.
We at Multiversity, because we are dedicated to bringing you coverage of comics’ biggest events, will be sharing our thoughts for every issue of “Before Watchmen” the week they are released. As a precursor to that, we are chatting today about our expectations and thoughts about the series. So, David, let’s get right to it. On a scale of “Couldn’t Care Less” to “Pissing My Pants With Excitement,” where are you on the anticipation scale for this event?
David: I HOPE THE THING DIES. BOMB THE COMIC BOOK INDUSTRY! I BET ALAN MOORE IS ROLLING OVER IN HIS GRAVE!
Or something like that. Honestly, I’m not sure if I would say “couldn’t care less” because you look at the creator list and think, “wow, Darwyn Cooke!” I read anything the guy does, so I’m on board. But really, my apathy doesn’t stem from any level of being upset, but rather, to be honest, a general lack of interest in the project as a whole stemming from my lack of love for the original. I like “Watchmen.” I don’t love it.
What about you? Where are you at in terms of excitement?
I am excited based solely on the creative teams. Anyone who tells you they wouldn’t buy an Azzarello/Bremejo or Darwyn Cooke joint, no matter the character, is someone I don’t totally understand. I think there are some pretty interesting creators involved, and that those creators have the ability to do interesting things with these characters.
That said, I think the idea for the series is a flawed one, but that hasn’t stopped comics for the last 70 years.
So, to sum up, I’m excited to see what these creative teams will do, even if revisiting the world of Watchmen isn’t something I’m eagerly anticipating.
Which of the series has you most excited, both art-wise and script-wise?
David: Well, for me it’s the Minutemen book; it combines my two favorite creators on one book: Darwyn Cooke writing, Darwyn Cooke drawing. What else do I want? He fits the idea and the aesthetic of the throwback nature of the story better than anyone in my book, plus, he’s simply one of the best in the business.
Besides that, I love the pairing of Cooke with Amanda Conner on “Silk Spectre,” but I feel like Silk Spectre I and Silk Spectre II both had their stories properly told. I feel like, more than almost anyone, there is less room for that character to be filled in.
I’m guessing Azzarello and Bermejo’s “Rorschach” is your boo?
Brian: “Rorschach” is the book I have the highest hopes for besides for “Minutemen” – as I said, I don’t love the idea of a Rorschach book. But, if it has to be done, who better than those guys to do it?
As for the others, I think an Ozymandius book could be really interesting, or super boring. Silk Spectre, as you said, has a great creative team but very little I care about in theory. Dr. Manhattan has been a shitty book called “Captain Atom” for the past 9 months, so I’m interested to see what a Dr. Manhattan book that doesn’t have to hide the fact that it is a Captain Atom book will look like. “Comedian” could be halfway interesting, and “Nite Owl” could be fun.
Overall, again, these aren’t books that are intriguing me because of their subject matter, but rather who is behind them.
Let’s talk about sales for a minute, as you’re the resident Multiversity sales guy. How well do you expect these to sell?
David: But I agree with you, having Azzarello and Bermejo together is a great team. For the same reason as that, a Azzarello and JG Jones team on The Comedian will be very interesting. Honestly, the only books I’m really jacked about are the ones that have phenomenal creative teams, and by that, I mean the Azz books and the Cooke books.
As for sales, I want to emphasize again, because I said this in our initial reactions write-up: in my opinion, this will be the most pirated comic ever. In fact, I’m going to keep track of just that on MC – I’m going to find sites that are offering these for download, find out how many people are doing so and compare them to other top books for the week.
But they will sell tremendously. If all of them aren’t in the top 20 of sales, I will be shocked. Sure, some stores are boycotting them, but those will be few and far between. I do think that this will be something that will do better in collected form eventually (like “Watchmen” itself), but you’d be crazy to think that this isn’t going to be a huge success from a sales standpoint. In fact, I would not be the least bit surprised if one of these books topped all sales for their first month of release. Do you see any way that these won’t be huge? And remember, sales aren’t sales in the comic world – they’re defined by the almighty order from retailers.
Brian: These may not be huge, sales-wise, because of the simple reality that most people who cite “Watchmen” as being brilliant don’t shop in comic stores. Add to that the movie flopping pretty hard, the closing of Borders, and the downsizing of Barnes and Noble, and you’re seeing a big of a perfect storm of bad situations for “Before Watchmen” to be released into.
I think you’ll see steady, strong numbers, but I don’t think you’ll see any earth-shattering sales for these books. Especially because, by the time the fan favorite characters, Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan, get their series, we’re into August already, and if these aren’t exactly great, enthusiasm will have plummeted, and not even Bermejo can save it.
David: Well, here’s my argument: at this point, “Watchmen” has hit a level of general fan interest that matches some of the biggest levels in comics. I mean, if “Saga” could open at #40, and “Spawn” #200 could drop in the top 10, what does that mean for something like this? It has the backbone that is the “Watchmen” book to generate interest. It has the controversy behind it (and we know what controversy does). And think about this – the people who are ordering it…retailers…are the same people who have seen “Watchmen” flying off their shelves for years now. Orders are based on perceived potential fan interest. Given the lack of anything really big going in the New 52 at this point as well as the spot we’re at in ‘AvX,’ I would truly be shocked if these books don’t own the top 20 with one of them ending up at the top. But hey, I could be wrong.
Speaking of the controversy, do you think that it could negatively impact sales and overall reception? Or do you think that it’ll just be what it will be?
Brian: Well, I think that people see “Watchmen,” rightly or wrongly, as the holy grail of superhero comics. So, what would negatively impact sales and reception is anything that deviates a hair from Moore’s original characterizations. If anyone acts out of sorts, in any way, bullshit will be called and people will proverbially riot in the streets of the intarwebs.
And that, precisely, is why this is setup to fail; DC wants this to excite people, but people don’t want filler stories for these characters, and since you’ve already seen their beginnings and their ends, who wants to see the boring middles? This isn’t like our beloved “B.P.R.D.,” where the continuing story is enhanced by the looks into the past. There is one collected edition for all of these characters to live within, and that collected edition tells you all the essentials for them. These are inessential stories by their very nature, and no matter how good they are, they won’t satisfy the masses.
David: But I think you’re overrating comics to a degree if you think we’re not perpetually in the boring middle for Big Two comics. If anything, we’ve been taught that there’s always something more coming, and that’s what we should be excited about. Inherently, at least today, comics are about the potential of tomorrow with today being as inessential as “Before Watchmen” likely is. Some books survive that and thrive today and tomorrow, but many books just slog throughout that boring middle forever. I call that the last…oh, I don’t know…15 years of “Uncanny X-Men” at least?
I truly think it doesn’t matter though what it is. It’s “Watchmen.” It’s got a huge marketing push. It’s going to slay, and I’d bet my reputation on it! Sure, people will rage, but people will also buy.
Also, here’s a fun fact about comic ordering: they’re always ordered 90 days in advance. So even if Rorschach spends the entire first issue recreating Pagliacci’s routine, the only issue that even in theory could be impacted sales-wise would be the fourth and final issue. All that really matters from that standpoint is reception, and since when has poor characterization stopped a comic from selling well?
Brian: I hear you, but the fun of Big Two comics, even if we’re always in the perpetual middle, we are getting new developments, theoretically at least. Here, there are no new developments possible – Silk Spectre can’t decide to be a tap dancer and leave heroics behind, because we know where she winds up. Similarly, even if these managed to pluck the most interesting interludes from all these fictional lives, I think we all know that there won’t be too much more heard from these characters. The outrage over an ongoing from one of these characters would drown the internet.
So, in anticipation of Wednesday’s “Minutemen” #1, what do you hope to see in that issue?
David: Before jumping into that, I do want to say that my favorite Big Two comics aren’t the ones where necessarily the most happens, but where they do the best work with the characters. I mean, “FF” was AWESOME this week. But really, it wasn’t about what was happening so much as the fun Hickman has with those characters. Developments to me are less important than just quality storytelling with good characterization, and nice art. We’ll see if these books have those all on lock down. If they do, it’d be hard not to consider this venture a success.
As for “Minutemen,” I’m hoping for a good comic man. I think this book has the greatest potential, and not just because of Darwyn Cooke running the show. Of everything in “Watchmen,” the Minutemen were the aspect that we arguably got the least significant insight into. We picked up quick flashes of what they did, but it was nothing like the history of Dr. Manhattan or anything. Plus, there are other characters to touch on, and you know with Cooke that his art will be amazing and his writing will be perfect for a throwback story of this variety.
Brian: I agree – this is most rife with potential for greatness. I think Cooke is exactly the guy to be tackling this series, and I can’t see him doing wrong by it.
Anything else to add before we part ways until later in the week?
David: Actually, yeah. There was one thing I thought of that I was curious as to your thoughts on. Do you think, even if this is good, that by expanding this previously finite story, DC is devaluing the original story in the process?
Brian: Geez, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?
Historical context is somewhat needed here – Moore has said, at various times, that there is room for more stories from these characters, even if he has since changed his tune. So, from one point, no, adding to the 12 issue series isn’t devaluing the original.
However, these characters exist because of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and so something about seeing them in the hands of others does feel a little dirty. But there is a difference between feeling dirty and the original somehow being less important or iconic because of this. I mean, people know that there were plenty of apocryphal Sherlock Holmes stories not written by Doyle, but that doesn’t make his collection of Holmes stories any less wonderful.
Where do you stand on this?
David: I don’t think so. I mean, I don’t even think it is dirty. The stuff between DC and Moore might be shady, but it’s like any other property. Is Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men” any less good because it’s by Whedon and Cassaday as opposed to the original team of Stan and Jack? No way. It’s the nature of the industry. All kinds of stories are expanded on by the original creators or by new ones, and it doesn’t change the value of the first of its kind. There are so many examples throughout fiction – The Matrix, Star Wars originals vs. Star Wars prequels, the Ender’s Game series – that fall off considerably after the first iterations that we’d be silly to think that it works like that. It may for some of course, as there are always exceptions. But for me, it doesn’t make a big deal.
Also, one other thing before we wrap: I don’t think you really said your take on the original. Are you a “Watchmen” lifer, or are you like me in that you think it is good not great? Or do you hate it?
Brian: I think it is an easy book for non-regular readers to get behind. It has superheroes, yet is contained to 12 tidy issues.
Do I think it is good? Yes, I do.
Do I think it is great? Yes, I do.
Do I think it is the most essential comic ever? Not by a long shot.
Unfortunately, I think its role as “the comic that non-comics folks can get behind” has done more to both inflate its supposed importance and deflate its actual greatness. Because it is considered so iconic by non-comics folks, people who are legit comics lifers, like you, look at a great work and see something that doesn’t live up to its hype.
So, to put it in Stephen Colbert’s terminology, it is a great comic, not the greatest comic.
David: Yeah, definitely. I’m more of a “Preacher” guy, personally. But I’m weird. Got anything else for today’s edition?
Brian: I didn’t realize this was a “Preacher” V. “Watchmen” battle. I take “Preacher” any day!
Not particularly. I guess we should explain what our coverage will look like though, shouldn’t we?
David: I just meant in the overall comic world. “Preacher” is my all-time fave.
But yeah, basically, Brian and myself will be breaking down all of the first and last issues in detail, with the issues in-between only getting a Game of Thrones style “Five Thoughts” breakdown. Past that, we’ll give a wrap up on the whole thing when it is all said and done, and I’ll put together a look at sales and piracy business as we go along. Am I missing anything?
Brian: (James Robinson’s “Starman” is my all-time fave)
And I don’t think you’re missing anything, except to invite our readers to post in the comments what their expectations/hopes are for these comics. Post away, and we’ll see you on Friday!