Wednesday, June 19, 2013

More like BeSNORE Watchmen I guess maybe, whatever, what's this about again?

As part of the 30 Days project, I’ll be reviving Gone&Forgotten for a short article every day throughout the month, and maybe more as Your Humble Editor strives to catch up...


Self-portrait of Darwyn Cooke. Not shown: Oliver Sava throwing all those confetti and flowers...
William Leung at The Hooded Utilitarian has already performed two graceful and totally deserved eviscerations of Darwyn Cooke's contributions to Before Watchmen here and here. I'm terribly grateful for these articles because not only is it an exhaustive pillorying of a title produced for the most cynical reasons and unabashedly celebrated primarily by the worst reviewers in comics journalism and most slavering consumer-collaborators in the marketplace, but also because now I don't have to do it.

Minutemen in particular is a highly problematic story which deserves as dense a critique as anyone is willing to give it, if only because of the narrative which Cooke himself invested with such importance in the run-up to the series; allegedly, Cooke was approached by Didio to partake in Before Watchmen but turned the offer down, mentioning his unease at working without the original creators' consent. But then - oh, frabjuous day - SUCH a GOOD IDEA came to Cooke that he couldn't resist the project and he came back, apparent misgivings irrelevant.

The "great idea" Cooke had was apparently to tell all of the stories which were too dark to go into Hollis Mason's "warm and fuzzy" memoirs, an idea that had promise except that Mason's autobiography as it was excerpted in Watchmen was far from expurgated and bowdlerized. Still, in trying to create this new narrative, Cooke created an incriminating document diminishing the rape and character of Sally Jupiter, recast the Minutemen as traditional action hero adventurers, objectified its female characters and gloried in the exploitation of their bodily injury, and generally traded in slurs and stereotypes. As great ideas go, this was a corker. Again, I recommend the Hooded Utilitarian articles.

So anyway, still, some parts of Before Watchmen stand out, in no small part because I certainly don't think any of the writers brought their "A" Game to the show. Personally, I've always appreciated Cooke as a visual storyteller but never understood the appeal so many found in his writing, which struck me as plodding and generally derivative of a few infertile tropes gathered from the lowest brow comics and men's adventure novels. I mean, he's perfect for mainstream comics then, but still ...

As a for-instance, part of Cooke's amazing, wonderful, too-good-to-miss out idea for The Minutemen involved making them effectively indistinguishable from the superheroes of any other mainstream comic, including a "wacky superhero tryouts" scene which is tonally inappropriate even for this far-afield extrapolation of the concepts created in Watchmen. 


Good lord, that "Slut" joke ...
This is a concept so original, ground-breaking and all-around awesome that it almost validates the entire Before Watchmen project entirely also it's such a hackneyed old joke I found it replayed in an issue of Justice League Quarterly. Quarterly - that's not even the FUNNY Justice League book, much less the good one...


NEXT!

3 comments:

Rex Kidd said...

Hey, I liked Justice League Quarterly. Well, the first issue, with the Conglomerate, anyway.

Man, I just don't see what there is to like about Before Watchmen (other than the art, I guess, which is generally quite good). As callous cash-grabs go, this is probably the worst I've ever seen in a comic context.

Captain Alpha Bravo said...

Just...wow. You know what's really sad, though? In writing this, Cooke probably saw Captain Metropolis concurring with Sally Jupiter on that last panel as oh-so-clever and subtle foreshadowing.

And this was the good Before Watchmen book? Ugh. William Leung's HU takedown of this book was not without its problems, but it hit the nail on the head on a lot of points.

Captain Alpha Bravo said...

Just...wow. You know what's really sad, though? In writing this, Cooke probably saw Captain Metropolis concurring with Sally Jupiter on that last panel as oh-so-clever and subtle foreshadowing.

And this was the good Before Watchmen book? Ugh. William Leung's HU takedown of this book was not without its problems, but it hit the nail on the head on a lot of points.

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