Saturday, July 7, 2012

It Ain't Necessarily So

Just because I feel like playing Devil's Advocate this afternoon, I want to address one other aspect of the advanced criticism of "Before Watchmen" that showed up again and again across the Wild, Wild Web.  That is the notion that prequels to Watchmen were going to automatically suck because Alan Moore wasn't writing them, which seems to carry with it the assumption that any follow-up to Watchmen that was done by Moore would have been brilliant.
That  ain't necessarily so.
It is entirely possible that a Watchmen sequel by Moore and Dave Gibbons could have been awful, and a bad sequel by the original creators would have done more to damage the reputation of the original than anything done by a bunch of hired guns.
I can, just off the top of my head, come up with a long list of sequels  to classic works by the original creators that didn't even come close to matching the brilliance of the originals.
Need I mention the Star Wars prequels?  I'm sure that even a lot of hardcore Star Wars fans would prefer that I didn't.
Then there's The Dark Knight Strikes Again, which, while it may have charms of its own for certain readers, comes nowhere near matching the sheer visceral gut-level impact of The Dark Knight Returns.
While I've never read them, I've heard that the sequels to the novel MASH, and there are quite a few, are fairly awful, and all of them are written by Richard Hooker, the author of the original.
One of my favorite Superman stories is "The Super-Cigars of Perry White" from Action Comics #436.  The story was written by Elliot S! Maggin and drawn by Curt Swan.  A couple of issues earlier, in a story I've never read, Daily Planet editor Perry White had apparently aided Superman in overthrowing a dictator on an alien world.   In gratitude, a pair of teenagers from that planet are dispatched to Earth to bring a gift to Perry.  Without telling White, they substitute his normal cigars for stogies that will give him any super-power that he can think of while he is smoking them.  On a trip to New York City, accompanied by Clark Kent, to accept his latest Pulitzer Prize, awarded, I believe, for reporting on that same extraterrestrial civil war that he and Superman had intervened in, Perry uses his newfound powers to aid the Man of Steel in rescuing the very plane he and Clark are traveling on and defeating a nameless criminal driving a nuclear powered super-tank.  Only after deducing that he was gaining any super-power that he asked for and asking for the power to know where his powers come from does Perry learn the source of his mysterious new abilities. Realizing that he has only one super-cigar remaining, Perry locks it a wall safe concealed behind his framed Pulitzer Prize certificate in case of a later emergency.
One thing that I love about this story, aside from its sheer brilliant silliness, is how absolutely politically incorrect the very concept is.  You just know that "The Super-Cigars of Perry White" would never get printed today.  Given the political and social climate of the last couple of decades, no comics publisher would dare to present a story that even hinted at any positive effects of smoking.  Hell, I'm a little surprised that it got past editor Julius Schwartz's desk even back in 1974.
Anyway, to get back to my point in even mentioning this story, in 1982, after a few years away from the Superman titles, Maggin returned as of Superman #376 with a story entitled " The Ozone-Master Comes Calling!" which was a direct sequel to "The Super-Cigars of Perry White."  Perry White is attacked in his home by the eponymous Ozone-Master in order to prevent Perry from publishing incriminating photos in the Planet.  From his hospital bed, he directs Superman to bring him his last super-cigar from the wall safe in his office.  Perry uses the powers granted by the alien stogie to temporarily restore himself to full health and aid Superman in bringing the Ozone-Master to justice.  
While just as politically incorrect as its predecessor, Superman #376 possesses none of the original's goofy charms.  Instead, it is a fairly bland Superman tale, pretty typical of the stuff that DC was cranking out in the half decade prior to John Byrne's 1986 revamp of the character in The Man of Steel.
Well, I think I've managed to make my point and I got to talk about one of my favorite comic book stories.  All in all, a good day at the keyboard.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it true that Moore co-wrote material for the Watchmen role-playing games published by Mayfair back in 1987? Those RPG books, themselves supliments of Mayfair's DC Heroes, had adventure modules for players to navigate that were, in essence, Watchmen prequels.

    The ides of additional Watchmen material isn't blasphemous - Hell, it isn't even novel. The only controversy here is artificial hype being puffed up by DiDio and the folks at DC Comics.