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Thursday, August 12, 2004
Regarding the Book Of Which We Do Not Speak, I've been seeing a lot of criticism regarding how it is "inappropriate" to tell this kind of story with these kinds of characters. I think that boils down to differences in taste at the end of the day, but the particular analogy I keep seeing people make is this: Watchmen wouldn't have been as good if it had featured Captain Atom, Blue Beetle and The Question instead of Doc Manhattan, Nite-Owl and Rorsarch.
Well, yes, it would have been just as good, because Watchmen is good because of who the creators are and what the book is saying about the nature of the super-hero genre. It would be just as good with any characters in it, whether they are original characters or re-cast company-owned characters. The actual names and costumes of the characters isn't really important.
By this same logic, I'd imagine the people making this criticism would have us believe that Dark Knight Returns would have been vastly improved if it had featured Hits-People-At-Night Man instead of Batman.
The story Meltzer and Morales are telling is at least somewhat dependant on the reader having an emotional reaction to seeing characters that are familiar to them go through this. Doppelgangers just wouldn't work. I mean, is anyone really upset by the fact that Tom Thumb died in Squadron Supreme? No, because the story has no real emotional investment on the reader's part because it doesn't feature the "real" characters. And good fiction should cause some kind of reaction in the reader. Hopefully not an over-reaction, but some kind of emotional involvement.
Now, as to whether or not this kind of story should be an "Elseworlds" or something of the kind, I'd say that alternate reality stories have the same problem that stories featuring doppelgangers do. There's no emotional investment on the reader's part, therefore any impact the story could make is blunted. Take Kingdom Come...at the end of the day, who cares that almost all of the characters were wiped out in a nuclear explosion? They weren't the "real" characters, so it doesn't matter what happens to them.
Lastly, DC Editorial have decided that they want this story, for both creative and financial reasons, to take place in the "real" DCU. Creatively, because they clearly think there is value in telling this kind of story in the DCU. And financially because now they get to sell tie-ins, trade paperbacks, and garner lots of publicity for both this title and the line as a whole. You may think it's a bad idea, but frankly, they're not your toys to play with, they're DCs, and they can do what they please with them.