Gibbons dismisses Before Watchmen as non-canon

Original Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons reveals what he thinks of the new Watchmen comic line.

Watchmen is widely recognized as one of the greatest – and best-selling – graphic novels in history. The themes of friendship, triumph, violence, and power are depicted in a dystopian alternate world of the 80’s. When a member of a defunct team of heroes is murdered, the tragic event brings the rest of the group together to relive old times.

When Before Watchmen, a new line of comics intended as a Watchmen prequel, was announced by DC, the word of the original two creators was sought by many a journalist.

As you may recall, writer Alan Moore has been very vocal about his dislike of the project, and has been willing to tell everyone who asks that the line is a terrible idea which utterly ruins what he once created.

Of course, many of Moore’s comments make him come off as a jaded fogey, rather than an artist caring about his creation. Most notably, he recently compared his work to Moby Dick, claiming that writing a prequel to Watchmen is akin to penning a prequel to Moby Dick (with the inference, of course, that this would be a bad thing).

Gibbons, on the other hand, went mostly unnoticed, releasing only a single short statement about the project which was, compared to Moore’s comments, actually quite polite, “The original series of Watchmen is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell,” he explained back in February. “However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire.”

In a recent interview given at the GameCity Nottingham Festival, Gibbons clarified that he does not consider Before Watchmen part of the Watchmen universe. “I didn’t have a lot of input in it. To me anything to do with the movies – as far as I’m concerned, what Alan and I did was the Watchmen graphic novel and a couple of illustrations that came out at the same time. Everything else – the movie, the game, the [laugh] prequels – are really not canon. They’re subsidiary. They’re not really Watchmen. They’re just something different.”

So, while he’s still not blasting the project, like his co-creator, he diplomatically disagrees that the comics mean much at all. Of course, all of this is semantic. Each member of the audience can read the books for themselves and decide if they want to consider Before Watchmen part of the continuity. We can ask who has a greater right to establish canon when the creator and the owner of the IP are not the same person, and to some extent this is an important question, but it really comes down to what the reader sees for themselves.

So far, DC has chosen not to respond directly to Moore or Gibbons on the issue, and this is probably the most positive course for them. The best thing to do here is to make the books they want to make, tell the story they want to tell, and move on. That’s exactly what they’re doing, and in a way it’s commendable.

If you’d like to see the rest of the interview, in which Gibbons discusses a lot more (it’s an hour-long interview) than just his thoughts on Before Watchmen, it’s here: 

Before Watchmen started this summer, and will continue to roll out new books each week until all 35 are out sometime next spring.