Watchmen (Before & After)


I just finished re-reading Watchmen for the first time in many years. Every time I read I notice some new detail or nuance I had never noticed before. I used to pretend that non-comics readers might one day ask me to recommend a comic book or series to read, but that almost never happens. Over the years my choices have changed somewhat (and it would depend on that imaginary person's tastes in any case), but rarely have I considered Watchmen because it was not likely a non-fan could possibly appreciate it the way I appriciate it, but I have since changed my mind. It is so layered that a practiced reader couldn't help but appreciate it, maybe not in the same way I do, but in a way uniquely his or her own.

But I'm not here today to talk about Watchmen; I'm here to talk about what came after. I'm going to start with the nine titles collectively known as "Before Watchmen" which were released in 2013. I have read these series  (and one one-shot) only once, in the order they were released. It struck me at the time that there should be an ideal reading order but, as I indicated, I have yet to even read any of them ininterrupted start to finish. By the time I am fiinished with thise phase of "Before & After" I hope to have a better idea of in which order to read the series. All I have now is a vague notion that Minutemen should be first and Comedian should be last. This is the order in which they were released:

  • Minutemen
  • Silk Spectre
  • Comedian
  • Nite Owl
  • Ozymandias
  • Rorschach
  • Dr. Manhattan
  • Moloch
  • Dollar Bill

The series are either 1, 2, 4 or 6 issues. Because some are lengthier than others, some which started later ended sooner.

FIRST UP: Minutemen

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  • I have not read these, although I have thought about it. So I'll be interested to see what you think of them.

  • I well remember all the controversy this caused with Alan Moore and his fans telling readers if you read them don't read read anymore of his works. 

    I never believed that prequels and sequels do damage to the original piece. After all, you can easily say that the additions do not count! 

  • As far as that is concerned, I do not plan to take sides.

  • I never read any of these, not out of fear of offending the Great Wizard Eroom Nala, but because I didn't feel as though the story needed adding to.

    •  I do not plan to take sides on that issue, either.

  • I've only read the Minutemen issues because Darwyn Cooke.

  • MINUTEMEN (6 issues) - Darwyn Cooke


    I wanted to deal with this one first, not only because it was released first, but because it occurs earliest chronologically in the Watchmen universe. The first few pages of each issues are set in 1962, just prior to the publication of Hollis Mason's tell-all autobiography, Under the Hood, and the rest of the series covers the years 1939 through 1962. The first five chapters of Under the Hood appeared verbatim in the first three issues of Watchmen and, the first time I read it, I fully expected the rest of the book to unfold side-by-side with the comic book story throughout the rest of the series. I remember being a little disappointed when, in 1986, I discovered that Watchmen #4 featured the introduction to Professor Milton Glass's book, Dr. Manhattan and the Superpowers, instead of another chapter or two of Under the Hood (although, ultimately, I was most certainly not disappointed in the backup features of #4-12). 

    For those who, like me, wanted to read more of Under the Hood, that's pretty much what Minutemen is. Darwyn Cooke builds upon what Alan Moore established, filling in the gaps between the major beats as revealed in Under the Hood. That's not exactly what Minutemen is, however, becose it does includes some scenes Hollis Mason couldn't possibly have know, such as how Sally Jupiter got back together with Eddie Blake after his attempted rape. If you look closely enough, you might discover a minor discrepancy or two with Moore's version (especially if it is as fresh in your mind as it is now  in mine), but those are minor. There are some discrepancies, however, which are accounted for. For example, in Under the Hood, Hollis Mason says that he doesn't know who Hooded Justice was under his mask, although he speculates it might have been Rolf Müller; in Minutemen, Hollis knows. It is not Müller, but Müller is involved. There is also a reason why Mason didn't reveal this (and other secrets revealed in Minutemen) in Under the Hood.

    Minutemen is a worthy prequel to Watchmen, very, very dark in places. Perhaps when I am finished reading all nine of these, in addition to assembling them into some sort of "preferred reading order" I may also rank them.

    • I read Minutemen for the first time this weekend. I enjoyed it (darkness and all), and agree that it is a worthy prequel. I don't know why I expected anything less from Darwyn Cooke; I suppose I was distracted by Alan Moore's hatred of the whole project. Cooke was known for his loose respect for continuity in corporate projects, in that he was not a stickler for detail, so it is impressive that he respected the original as much as he did. He got the narrative tone right, too.

  • DOLLAR BILL (one-shot) - Len Wein & Steve Rude


    This was the last title (although not the last issue) of "Before Watchmen" to appear, but I'm slotting it in here not only because it occurs early chronologically, but also because it was released just one week after Minutemen #6. Some of the events we saw for the first time in Minutemen are repeated here from a different point of view, just as certain scenes in Watchmen were presented from multiple points of view. I forgot to mention yesterday how well Darwyn Cooke fleshed out the characterization between and among members. For example, Nite Owl and the Silhouette were the most serious about actually fighting crime. (Also, Nite Owl had a thing for her before he learned she was a lesbian.) In addition, Nite Owl and Mothman were close friends, and readers got to witness firsthand how Mothman deteriorated mentally over the years. Just as Darwyn Cooke did with all of the Minutemen, so too does Len Wein do here with Dollar Bill; he humanizes him and makes him much more of a tragic figure, as opposed to the one-note joke he was in Watchmen. In Watchmen, Dollar Bill served as little more than a two-dimensional representation of the "costumed adventurer" fad of the 1940s, who died when his cape became stuck in a revolving door and he was shot by the bank robbers he was pursuing. The Dollar Bill one-shot traces Bill's life from star athlete to failed actor to costumed adventurer and really makes the reader care about him. Beyond that, this comic is worth it for the Steve Rude artwork alone.

    • Again, I agree. I was surprised at how involved I got in the story. I also appreciate you mentioning it just before my Comixology Unlimited trial ended. I am reading most of the stories via the Deluxe Editions available through the library's Hoopla service. Those collections do not include this one-shot or the later Moloch two-parter. I was not able to read them for free on Comixology/Amazon, but I did get a small discount on the individual Kindle issues.

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