The bad feelings between writer Alan Moore and DC Comics are old ones, stemming from an argument stretching so far back into the mists of antiquity that no one even knows what it’s about anymore. The two parties has simply been at odds as long as anyone can remember. I think it might have had something to do with Moore being angry with DC for deciding to use Johannes Gutenberg’s new movable type invention to print copies of his illustrated adventure stories, rather than continuing to have them hand-illuminated by monks.
Whatever the reason, I’ve always admired, or at least greatly appreciated, the fact that DC didn’t go out of their way to exploit the now decades old success of Watchmen as crassly as they could have.
There was no Watchmen 2 by Mike Barr, Alan Davis and Todd McFarlane, nor were there one-shots of each of the stars a la Kingdom Come’s sequel-esque 1999 event, The Kingdom. There was never an Earth-W, and Donna Troy, Jason Todd and friends never visited the Nite-Owl in Countdown Presents: The Search For Ray Palmer: Watchmen.
Whether this was because DC was being very cool and letting Moore and Dave Gibbons’ work stand on its self-contained own forever even if there was some more money to be made from exploiting it, or a cynical business decision to avoid courting controversy and fan backlash by leaving it alone, it doesn’t really matter: Rorshach doesn’t show up Coundtown Arena and Captain Atom never fights Doctor Manhattan.
The closest DC Comics ever seems to come to Watchmen is winking and nodding at it, like one of Grant Morrison’s alternate versions of Superman in Superman Beyond being awfully Doctor Manhattan-like or The Question saying “Hurm” in an issue of Justice League Unlimited (Er, unless you count this, of course).
Now that the film adaptation is just around the corner, the floodgates of Watchmen merch have been opened wide, and there’s enough of it that comic shop employees can be sloshing around in it if they wanted to be. But even that is Watchmen movie stuff, not Watchmen comic stuff.
If DC was ever going to make a Watchmen prequel comic or The Comedian: Year One, this is when they’d have done it, and they haven’t. So bravo, DC.
As I was thinking about this, I wondered if there was any form of comic DC could put out of Watchmen that wouldn’t seem wrong, and beyond new printings, different formats and books about the book (a la Watching the Watchmen), I could only think of one, and even that might be cutting it close: A Watchmen Gallery comic.
DC hasn’t published any of these in a while, but they used to be rather common. There was 1992’s Batman Gallery, which collected various covers and pin-ups into a comic book format, with a cover by young Joe Quesada (Which reminds me, when is DC going to publish their Complete Joe Quesada DC Universe trade collecting all of the current Marvel EIC’s work for them?).
They were pretty big at Vertigo in its early years, I know. Just based on my own longboxes, I see there was Sandman: A Gallery of Dreams, A Death Gallery and The Endless Gallery (And I wouldn’t be surprised to learn of more).
There was even a Lobo Gallery: Portraits of a Bastich in 1995, and in 1997 there was a JLA Gallery (Ever wonder what Frank Quitely’s Electro-Supes would have looked like? Wonder no more).
In each of these, the idea was pretty simple and straightforward—round up a bunch of great artists, some associated with the characters, some not, and have them present a portrait of their interpretation. The more unlikely it is that the artist in question would ever actually do an issue of JLA or a 22-page Sandman story, the better.
I’m not sure why DC stopped doing these Gallery books. The closest thing I can remember seeing was the three-part JLA-Z series that came out around the time of JLA/Avengers (presumably as a sort of program of all the DC heroes appearing and cameoing throughout it) that functioned as something between a Gallery and a Secret Files and Origins, with portraits of each accompanied by a few sentences of text about them.
Perhaps the books just sold rotten, or perhaps the fact that the comic book market has moved so much closer to a comics-to-trade model make books like these oddities, something worth a couple of bucks but not something you’d buy a trade paperback full of. I don’t know.
Anyway, I wonder if a Watchmen Gallery would have been a way for DC to provide new Watchmen-related material without actually telling a new Watchmen story. Rather, they could just round up a bunch of great artists from all over the industry who liked or had some relationship or reaction to Watchmen the graphic novel, and asked them to draw a portrait. I can’t imagine it would be hard to find them, and I can’t imagine it would generate any horrible form of backlash from Moore, Gibbons or any readers who would (rightly) object to any new Watchmen comics.
The 2003 book published by Abiogenesis, Alan Moore: Potrtait of An Extraordinary Gentelmen, give s a good indication of what entries in such a book might have looked like. That book was a series of portraits, visual and literary, of Moore from his friends, collaborators and many admirers within the industry, and several artists drew various Watchmen characters, as well as just about every other character Moore is known for. Included, for example, are Watchmen by James Kochalka, Matt Kindt, Scott Mills, Arturo Villarrubia, Carla Speed McNeil and others.
The above image, by the way, is one Alex Ross did for Wizard, and features Ross’ version of pretty much every character Moore ever written at the time; the Watchmen are mostly to the right. The piece was also reprtined in Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross.