If you have been reading the internet recently you have probably heard the rumor that Watchmen 2 is coming. Let me start by saying, no matter how definite some sites may make it out to seem, until we hear from DC directly take it all with a grain of salt. The internet has been “sure” about things before that never panned out. I for one am not so convinced that it is happening, but then again I would not be surprised if it did. Either way this creates an opportunity for us to think about returning to the Watchmen world. While I do not like the idea of a sequel, I do think there are a few ways that we could return to the without ruining the original book.
There are a few commonly used story ideas that could be used to return us to Watchmen. The first would be to do a prequel. This seems to be the prominent idea floating around, and ironically it is my least favorite. Don’t get me wrong I think there are great stories to tell, but the problem with a prequel is its only real value is giving us deeper insight into these characters and where they came from. I think within the confines of the Watchmen this is a waste. Look, the core of this book is about ethical ideology and political commentary. At what price do we want utopia, and do the ends justify the means? I like what we already know about these characters and their world up to the point at which the story is told. I do not need to know the climate, because Alan Moore provided for all of that so well in the original books. And lastly, all prequels are telling a story where the reader already knows what happens. It’s like reading the last chapter of a book first: it weighs heavily on everything you read going forward, and the story looses its purity.
I think if a character path like this is where DC wants to go with Watchmen, a better option could be to do a series of mini one-offs that show what happens to Nite Owl and the rest of the remaining team. Let’s assume for a moment the world finds utopia. What happens to Nite Owl? Can he live with the knowledge of Ozymandias betrayal and Rorschach’s death? Does Ozymandias’ guilt destroy him? Does Dr. Manhattan, in creating life, ultimately regain his humanity? What becomes of the young man who finds Rorschach’s journal? Does he share the information or is the truth lost to history? I think the problem with this plan is that these are questions that we have all considered in some way shape or form. DC runs the risk of creating a story that isolates fans because it does not reconcile with 20 years of having already made decisions for ourselves of what happens to these characters. This plan rests so strongly on whom the writer would be, and if they can they match the tone and feel Moore created, that I am just skeptical of it’s ability to be a success. And finally we would do this to what end? To give answers to questions that don’t need answering. I like the impact this book gave me, and part of the reason the impact was so powerful was because it was allowed to end with no real understanding of what would happen next.
The story I would much rather see would take place generations in the future. I think I would rather read a story where the events of Watchmen have become a story in history — pieces of a legend. I do not necessarily need to know the events that happened immediately following the book; better yet I want there to be ambiguity even in the minds of the characters we would now be reading about. I think this opens an avenue that allows readers to still make up their mind about how things ended and what road got us to where we are now. Lets take it a step further. How would this world, that only vaguely remembers the Watchmen, view someone like Dr. Manhattan, and more interestingly, his return to earth with his new race of beings? Could we not lace this story with political commentary on racism, genocide, economics, and religion? What if Dr. Manhattan’s creations have turned on him, and they are returning to his birthplace to humanize their god? These are questions that would not change the original story, but could draw inspiration from it.
Ultimately my concern is that anything done purely for the sake of making money will inevitably fall short. Audiences understand when something has the feel of genuine fandom behind it and when it just feels like a marketing scheme. I also think if Moore has no involvement it would tough to find a writer that could fit the bill. There are some terrific new writers out there, but political commentary is not as powerful in comics anymore and there are a lot of reasons for that. Comics are often purposely timid, to not alienate readers, fans, and 24 hour news stations and politicians that will happily manipulate anything they can and destroy anyone they must for a sensationalistic story. This could all help to make the book more powerful, but it would take a brash and powerful writer to do it. I guess only time will tell where we go from here. I still hope that we never see a sequel, but like any fan all I ask is if there is going to be one, make sure you clear it with me first!