In the mid 1980s, Alan Moore intended to write a finale story for the heroes of Charlton Comics. With the exception of a special issue that featured four of them forming a team called the Sentinels of Justice, the superheroes of Charlton hadn't been published since 1977. Moore's story would show how the heroes had changed since being outlawed in 1977 and would be entitled <em>Who Killed the Peacemaker?</em>
But DC Comics wanted to integrate the Charlton superheroes into their mainstream superhero universe rather than end their stories. A suggestion was made to alter the characters into analogues of the Charlton heroes. So, along with artist Dave Gibbons, Moore turned the Sentinels and their colleagues into the cast of <em>Watchmen.</em>
Watchmen has often been hailed as a groundbreaking work and many have appreciated that it is a self-contained story. Now, over 25 years later, DC has announced the <strong>Before Watchmen</strong> project. We will have four 4-issue mini-series, three 6-issue mini-series, and a one-shot to wrap everything up, giving us 35 prequel issues.
Some think this is a great idea, other see it as a thinly-veiled marketing ploy. With talent such as Brian Azzarello, J. Michael Straczynski, Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, Jae Lee, Len Wein, Lee Bermejo, Andy Kubert, John Higgins, and Joe Kubert, why put them together on a prequel to a story that's been over for a quarter of a century? Why not make them part of DC's New 52 reboot and produce stories about the true <strong>Before Watchmen</strong> characters? There's already a Captain Atom title, now give us books that re-establish the other original Charlton Heroes.
<strong>TALES OF THE BLUE BEETLE</strong>
Right now, Jaime Reyes is the third Blue Beetle, a role the young hero is still adjusting to. Wouldn't it be fun to see a mini-series featuring the previous heroes who carried that title? You could even make this an ongoing where each three or four-issue arc switches between the super-powered archeologist Dan Garrett (Blue Beetle 1) and the non-powered, sarcastic scientist Ted Kord (Blue Beetle 2), the inspiration for Nite Owl in Watchmen. This could re-establish a sense of legacy to part of the DC Universe, which would be fun since most of the old guard has been relocated to the parallel universe of Earth-2. You can also play with having Dan Garret face an all-new villain and then having that baddie show up in one of Jaime's modern day stories, instantly establishing that this is a foe with history.
Along with high-flying fun, the series could also touch on the tragedy that can come with being a superhero, since both Dan and Ted met their ends while fighting evil, cutting their careers short. It would serve to remind readers that not every superhero gets to escape death and danger for many years and that the DC Universe is a dangerous place for any who decide to stand for justice.
<strong>NIGHTSHADE AND BLACK CANARY</strong>
Silk Specter was an analogue to Charlton's character Nightshade but also got elements of the Black Canary thrown in. Why not do a fun team-up mini? We all know Amanda Conner can rock out a Black Canary drawing and I'd be curious how she would redesign Nightshade.
Eve Eden is the daughter of a woman who came from the Land of Nightshades, a place of living darkness. With this heritage, Eve can teleport, use shadows as weapons, and even become one herself. Team her up with the popular Black Canary, who often leads the Birds of Prey and is quite formidable with her sonic "Canary Cry" and expert martial arts skills, and you've got a very interesting duo. What strange demonic menaces would they face? Does Eve feel out of place in the world? Is her constant use of shadows in danger of corrupting her? It would be fun to find out.
This would also give us yet another rare female driven superhero title that is not related to a bat. Once Black Canary brings in some fans that otherwise wouldn't have checked out a Nightshade book, have Eve spin off into her own stories.
<strong>QUEST OF THE BLACK PIRATE</strong>
Len Wein and John Higgins are working on the Crimson Corsair part of <strong>Before Watchmen</strong>. I like their work, but it's difficult for me to get excited about a fictional character within a fictional story. Unlike <em>Inception</em>, it's a couple levels too removed for me.
But DC has its own great pirate characters. One of the most famous is Jon Valor, the Black Pirate, created by the recently departed Sheldon Moldoff. The Black Pirate was a privateer on the high seas and was featured extensively in the critically acclaimed <strong>Starman</strong> series by James Robinson. His descendant also appeared in Grant Morrison's <strong>Return of Bruce Wayne</strong> mini-series, in a chapter where the Dark Knight himself temporarily assumed the pirate's identity.
Maybe DC doesn't think this guy would be able to carry his own monthly title, but a mini-series at least could be very fun. We've already got a western title with <strong>All-Star Western</strong> and a medieval sword and sorcery title with <strong>Demon Knights</strong>. Why not show some pirate adventures as well? You can take them into strange, dark areas of magic and horror as well, bringing in opportunities for someone like Jae Lee to wow folks with dark art.
<strong>THE PEACEMAKER CHRONICLES</strong>
There are two different directions you would go with this character who inspired the Comedian of <strong>Watchmen</strong>. One version was that he was secretly a diplomat desperate to bring about peace in certain regions and would don the Peacemaker uniform to achieve this, using formidable but non-lethal weaponry in his crusade. A later take on the character made him a very lethal vigilante, haunted by the idea that the ghosts of his victims would speak to him in his helmet. Yet a later take had him act as a mentor of sorts to Jaime Reyes, the third Blue Beetle. And there was also a brief story that introduced a Peacemaker who was a medical doctor forced to act as a warrior.
There's been a lot of criticism about the level of violence in many DC Comics, with superheroes dismembering villains and demonic characters, and villains apparently slicing off their own faces. To make Peacemaker stand out from this and distinguish himself from being a Punisher analogue, I think we should go to the original version of Christopher Smith who used non-lethal weaponry. It would be an interesting contrast to show such a driven, militaristic character who is able to take down criminals and terrorists but doesn't mimic his enemies' methods. It would also increase the drama and tension if he found himself in situations where killing truly does seem to be the only option. In this post 9-11 world, the Peacemaker could find new relevance.
<strong>ANSWER THE QUESTION</strong>
Brian Azarello knows how to deliver gritty crime noir. Lee Bermejo can do some haunting work. How great would it be to have these two combine their forces for a series starring Reneé Montoya, the Gotham City police detective who became the seemingly-faceless vigilante known as the Question.
If you wish Batman stories didn't have so many guys in costumes or sci-fi technology, this could be your book. Reneé would deliver a dark, introspective take on the life of a vigilante and the razor edge they walk on that separates driven hero from obsessed villain.
Similar to the Blue Beetle idea above, you could do an interlude story every ten issues or so that feature Victor Sage, Reneé's mentor who operated as the original Question, a cynical journalist who often struggled with his own lust for violence and vengeance, and inspired Watchmen's Rorschach.
<strong>TALES OF THE DCU</strong>
Most of the DC Universe has been rebooted now. Superman showed up roughly six years ago, though Batman and the Green Lantern Hal Jordan were apparently in operation a few years before his debut. Then many heroes showed up "five years ago" and the Justice League formed soon afterward. Then we have the comics that take place today, with yet more heroes showing up.
What happened during that five year gap? Many still wonder. It's been alluded to that there was a Teen Titans team, but who was on its roster? How did the original Outsiders form in this new reality? Commissioner Gordon's second wife Sarah Essen has evidently been removed from continuity, which brings some stories such as No Man's Land into question. Has Barry Allen the Flash already met his time traveling enemy Zoom, also known as the "Renegade Flash" and "Reverse-Flash"? We've seen how Batman met the Justice Leaguers, but what about other champions? Did he help shape the Question's life, as he did in previous continuity? Did he get along with the second Blue Beetle and see him as a colleague, as was shown in the cartoon Batman: The Brave and the Bold?
Darwyn Cooke is great with revising tales of yesteryear, providing a sense of nostalgia mixed with the surprise of new perspectives. Put him on a series that is meant to fill in parts (though certainly not all) of this five year gap and not only do you have a fun series that would be reader-friendly for new fans, you can re-establish a history not only for the Charlton heroes but also for the DCU as a whole.