Rude Chapbooks 06.06.12 | EXTRA: After “Before Watchmen”

Given the gratifying prepublication response to DC’s controversial prequels to Watchmen, which begin to hit comics shops and tumescent fanboys this week, PLAYBACK:stl’s indefatigable rude chapbookworm here investigates rumors of a series of sequels to that “event.”

Through an informational back channel sufficiently shadowy it would make Woodward and Bernstein’s “Deep Throat” look like the acme of on-the-record full disclosure, “Rude Chapbooks” has learned that DC is already planning a sequel of sorts to its “Before Watchmen” project, which launches today.
That project, of course, cannibalizes via seven prequels Watchmen, the groundbreaking and über-popular 1986–87 series and (all but instantly) graphic novel created, in a work-for-hirish way, by artist Dave Gibbons and a Writer Who Has Politely Disavowed All Involvement With This Nonsense.
“Preorders on the ‘Before Watchmen’ titles made the marketing department look like the old Times Square raincoat brigade during a triple-X triple feature—swear to God, the floor was slick with drool and…um…other stuff,” this column’s confidential source recounts. “Right then, the head honchos started brainstorming ways to run another ‘before’ scam.
“It was terrifying,” continues the source, before pausing to swig Pepto-Bismol from one fist and Absolut from the other. “You could see these guys running mental spreadsheets on how to screw the fanboys one last time prior to submitting their resignations, cashing in their stock options, and waltzing out the door about five minutes before comic books as comic books, instead of Hollywood fodder, go the way of the chamber pot once the crapper got invented.”
After again swigging from both bottles, this column’s source adds, “Hearing that, it felt like all the industry’s chickens had finally come home to roost—like the big boys had adopted as their official corporate mission statement Shooter’s old ‘little fucks’ memo. You remember that?”
Yes, indeed. Infamously, in an April 1984 internal memorandum regarding the miniseries Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, Jim Shooter, then Marvel’s editor-in-chief, prodded his staff to “legitimize the hell out of” that miserable ur-“event” and, in one passage elided by typewritten virgules, disparaged Marvelites as “little fucks.” At the time, as The Comics Journal reported in its April 1985 issue, Marvel spokesman Steve Saffel soft-pedaled the memo as “intended to be humorous.” Almost three decades later, the memory of that memo still prompts laughter—grim, borderline-hysterical laughter.
In any event, this column’s source thereafter outlines a quintet of quasi-sequels to DC’s Watchmen-related prequels:
·      Before Action Comics #1: Jonathan and Martha This heartwarming, naturalistic narrative precedes the planetfall of the Kryptonian starship bearing a certain superpowered infant. In it, Martha Kent yearns for an apron that won’t tear after just three decades’ use, and husband Jonathan longs for free labor to help him milk their farm’s prize bull. Reportedly, although DC editor-in-chief Bob Harras has yet to decide which of his ’90s Marvel cronies will land the scriptwriting credit, company co-publisher Jim Lee has already redesigned Ma Kent’s kitchen curtains and Pa’s overalls quite daringly. Further, the company contemplates bulk discounts for adoption agencies.
·      Before The Dark Knight Returns: Bruce the Bibulous Although writer/penciller Frank Miller intimates early in his lowbrow-landmark 1986 miniseries/graphic novel that the Batman’s alter ego has been abusing the Wayne wine cellar for the better part of a decade, Bruce remains as mesomorphic as ever, a circumstance that rarely obtains in real life with career alcoholics. This tale relates how. DC plans to cross-promote it heavily in health magazines for men and women alike, presuming that some folks will accept lifestyle advice from even comic book characters to avoid replacing nonstop partying with something as frivolous as diet and exercise.
·      Before Genesis: Big Black Boondoggle When, more than a bit incredulously, questioned about what could possibly constitute the script to a work one passage of which (John 1:1) thunders, “In the beginning was the Word…,” this column’s source replies, “Script? What—oh, um, yeah…” Then said source flashes a pitying look, feigns laryngitis, and never answers the question. Be that as it may, given the comic’s high profile in this good Christian nation, Geoff Johns, DC’s chief creative officer, will provisionally write it with all the heart and soul he’s accorded the “New 52” Aquaman, Green Lantern, and Justice League.
·      Before V for Vendetta: U for Unspeakable This work forms a prequel to the dystopia serialized at the beginning and the end of the ’80s, compiled in 1990, and apparently adapted to film at some point by someone. The initial “intellectual property” originated, again in a work-for-hirish way, from artist David Lloyd and, coincidentally, the aforementioned W.W.H.P.D.A.I.W.T.N., from whom this column’s Northampton, England, bureau solicited a reaction to this offering. His response: “Dear God, why can’t all you little wankers just sod off and leave me alone, for pity’s sake?” (Thereafter, reports our Northampton bureaucrat, he began to weep uncontrollably.)
·      Before [                    ]: © ® ™ Etc. DC Comics This 48-pager comprises 20 blank pages and a 28-page raffle application, plus covers (also blank). DC plans to urge fans to fill all blanks as creatively as they can; to sign, date, and notarize the application; and then to mail everything, in photocopy, for a chance to win a Superman sketch by co-publisher Dan DiDio. The “application,” subsequently transmitted on the sly via e-mail by this column’s source, suspiciously resembles a contract assigning to the company (“its heirs and assigns”) all world rights in all media (“extant and potential”) in perpetuity.
Curiously, within an hour of that transmission, follow-up queries to the e-mail address of this column’s source begin to receive in reply only mailer daemon bounces.
Both with tongue firmly in cheek and with admiration for his anachronistic courage and principle, this column is dedicated to Chris Roberson, whose own first wonderful Memorial miniseries is scheduled to conclude later this month. It’s almost perforce also dedicated to Alan Moore—quis custodiet indeed, good sir. | Bryan A. Hollerbach

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