Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Watchmen Sequel?

The idea of a Watchmen sequel has been floating around for a year or two now and Timothy Callahan over at CBR tackles the question, posed by a reader, of "How do you feel about the prospect of "Watchmen" spin-offs in general and about Darwyn Cooke's upcoming effort in particular?"

Of course, the question takes for granted that a) there will be a spin-off and b) that Cooke is going to be connected to it in some way. Before tackling that question, Callahan offers up something that's worth remembering:
"Alan Moore himself talked about telling more stories in the Watchmen universe. He would have written a Minutemen miniseries, had he not scuffled with DC and ended his tenure there. "Watchmen" was not, at the time, or even for a few years after, regarded as a monolithic masterpiece. It was just a comic. A really good one."
It's very easy to have a knee-jerk reaction about a sequel to Watchmen, particularly as we can be 99.99999% certain that Moore will have absolutely nothing to do with it and will pour laconic scorn over it as soon as someone tells him. If he's not going to be doing it - and Dave Gibbons has sort of said that DC shouldn't do it - then no-one should, right?

I honestly don't know how I'd feel about a prequel or spin-off or unconnected story (at least character-wise) set in the same world. To my mind, it seems a little pointless. Watchmen is a complete story with a beginning, middle and end so why not leave it like that? Of course, you could say the same of other stories or franchises such as Terminator, Aliens or my beloved Star Wars. They've each been plundered, sequelled and expanded upon in various forms and with varying degrees of involvement by their creators.

So why not write another story set in that world? The original story ends in 1985 with Russia and America coming together in the face of a joint enemy, heralding a new era of world peace. Maybe Rorschach's journal makes it into the public domain? Maybe it's set in the 2010's and deals with terrorism? Maybe it's the children of Dan and Laurie taking up new identities? Maybe Dr. Manhattan returns, bringing with him the new life he created in another galaxy?

Actually, all those ideas straight off the top of my head illustrate exactly why there shouldn't be another story set in that world: it would be dreadful.

Callahan's right to mention that at the time of release Watchmen wasn't "regarded as a monolithic masterpiece." Trouble is, it is regarded as such now. Alan Moore may have been up for writing a Minutemen series or something else at the time, but he isn't now. Reminding us that Moore was interested in writing more stories twenty-five years ago isn't the same as saying that those stories should be written today and by other people.

To make any sort of connection, to make it worth the label of a Watchmen spin-off, prequel or sequel, the story would at the very least have to take place in the same world. And if it takes place in the same world, it's going to be compared with the original, and I think we all know how that's going to turn out.

Callahan finishes his piece by saying that any sequel that appears will never be as good and will, eventually, be forgotten while Watchmen will remain the classic that it has become and I agree. His closing lines put me in mind of a possibly apocryphal tale I've heard about Raymond Chandler. Apparently he was asked if he was upset by Hollywood ruining his books with the fast and loose adaptations of them. He pointed to his books on the shelf and says "No, they're okay."

Whatever happens with a sequel, we'll always have Watchmen.

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