A few friends have asked me recently for my thoughts on the Watchmen prequels—I think most people these days are kind of aware that Watchmen exists and is a graphic novel (a movie came out a couple years ago that didn’t at all do it justice)—actually, it’s one of the best-selling graphic novels of all time.  It was one of the seminal graphic novels of the ’80s, when comics writers started to experiment with much darker stories, transforming the medium. 

Anyway, there’s a reason it’s considered a classic—very strong storytelling by Alan Moore (one of the big names in the comic book universe) and lots and lots of layers and symbols to dissect.

So for years, there have been rumors of DC wanting to do a sequel or companion of some kind—it makes sense from a business perspective, since Watchmen is a huge moneymaker for them. But Moore had no interest in revisiting the characters—which also makes sense, since it’s a complete story on its own and doesn’t need sequels or prequels.  And Moore is notoriously cranky, to boot.  He and DC have been sparring over ownership of the story/characters for years. (Which is perhaps a bit silly, as all the characters are modeled after older comics characters from the Charlton line, which DC had acquired, and who were originally supposed to be featured in Watchmen—so they are not entirely Moore’s characters to begin with. Maybe that’s a philosophical distinction.)

In the past, I’ve tended to be a purist about this, agreeing with Moore that any kind of sequel would just be a crass moneymaking effort, and that the story was complete as it was. Prequels especially seemed unnecessary, since so much of the backstory came out in the graphic novel anyway (apparently Moore had discussed writing a prequel series back in the 80s, though he and DC never came to an agreement, so I guess the idea has been out there for a while).

But I will say that DC has really tried to make the prequels the best they possibly could be—they’re not just rushing something out to make a buck, they’re assembling a really strong team to try and match the greatness of the original . . . to try and make a buck. On the other hand, I’ll read anything Darwyn Cooke does, and he’s a great person to be involved—he does retro superheroes really well (Check out his series New Frontier) as well as noir (Check out his Parker books).  One of his Before Watchmen drawings can be seen here. So I guess I’ll give the series a chance.

Now that I’ve said waaaay too much about Watchmen, it’s time for this week’s recommendations!

For the grownups:
Locke and Key by Joe Hill (with art by Gabriel Rodriguez):  Hill is Stephen King’s son, and he totally lives up to his father’s reputation with this series, which has four collections out so far. It’s a super creepy story about a family whose father is murdered, so the three kids and their mom (who’s developed a drinking problem after her husband’s death) move in with their uncle in the mysterious house where their father grew up. And then the youngest kid finds a key that turns him into a ghost. And then they start to discover other keys that do other crazy things. And there’s something malevolent living in the well, determined to get all the keys for him/herself. This comic has a great mix of horror and fantasy elements, really interesting characters, and VERY cool art. But seriously, it’s for grownups—it’s very grisly at times.

So here’s a recommendation for all ages:
Marvel’s Wizard of Oz series. These are adaptations of the original books by Frank L. Baum, written by Eric Shanower and with art by Skottie Young (the art here is also VERY cool). The first three—Wizard of Oz, Marvelous Land of Oz, and Ozma of Oz—have been released so far. These are maybe suited best for older children, just because the font can be really small and hard to read—but my favorite four-year-old loves to have them read to her, and the stories themselves are fine for most ages (if you’ve read the original books, you know they can be a little bit menacing at times). The art is really the star here anyway.