Have you ever worked in an environment where, every once in a while, your boss would come up with the most ridiculous idea ever, but - because he's the boss - everyone else had to pretend they thought it was really great? Yeah. I'm guessing that's how most of the staff at DC must be feeling right now.
There's no doubt that Jim Lee ranks among the best artists ever to work in the super hero genre but, let's be honest, some of his ideas since he became the Big Stilton at DC stink like ... well, stilton. Can you imagine how many jaws must have hit the floor when he announced his idea for a sequel to Watchmen? No, nor can I. The sound must have been masked by the simultaneous clunking of heads hitting desks.
Not that any of that matters, because you don't have to imagine. The following is a transcript of the meeting between Lee and a group of his story editors at which Big Jim proposed Watchmen 2. (Well, okay, it's not. But it must have gone something like this, I'm sure!)
Lee: You know why super hero comics aren't as well regarded as they once were?
Editor 1: Er - because they've been around for seventy years and most of our writers just aren't good enough to do anything more than re-hash old plot lines?
Editor 2: I don't think it's entirely the writers' fault. The commissioning editors are at least partly to blame, because they only know how to commission stories that do re-hash old plot lines.
Lee: Hmmm - interesting theories, both of you. What you seem to be saying is, there's something wrong with the stories themselves; that we need something new and vibrant; something that really takes the genre back to its basics; that re-examines what a super hero story should be and tries to make it relevant to today's readers.
Editor 1: Exactly. Like Alan Moore and Frank Miller did back in the Eighties. The industry needs another DKR or another Watchmen.
Lee: Another Watchmen? That's a brilliant idea! I can see it now ... Watchmen 2: Revenge of the Squid!
Editor 1: Ah, no ... I didn't mean -
Lee: This will revolutionise the industry! An entirely new adventure starring Rorschach -
Editor 2: Umm - Rorschach's dead.
Editor 2: He died. At the end of Watchmen, he ...
Lee: He died?! What kind of a clueless writer kills off one of his main protagonists?
Editor 2: Well, in a way, that was kind of the point of -
Lee: I've got it! We can resurrect him! Fanboys love it when we resurrect dead characters! Nite Owl can take Rorschach's mask to his lab, extract a single ginger hair and take that to a Lazarus Pit!
Editor 1: A what?
Lee: A Lazarus Pit. Lots of characters have been brought back from the dead by using a Lazarus Pit.
Editor 1: Yeah. I know what a Lazarus Pit is. I just meant ... don't Lazarus Pits only exist in the DCU?
Lee: So? What are you trying to say? That Watchmen doesn't take place in the DCU?
Editor 1: Well ... yeah. That's kind of the point of -
Lee: Hey, you know what? Nevermind. This would be a great chance to bring it into the DCU. We could call it Watchmen 2: Crisis on a Not Quite Infinite But Still Pretty Large Number of Parallel and Alternative Earths!
Editor 2: Well, we could. But -
Lee: Okay, okay. Forget the Lazarus Pit. What about that big blue guy. Doctor Manhattan. He said something about wanting to create life, didn't he? Maybe the first life he creates could be Rorschach's! Wow - that is fantastic!
Editor 1: Ah ... isn't that a little ... you know. Out of character? I mean, at the end of Watchmen, Manhattan is supposed to have become so powerful and his vision so all-encompassing that he really struggles to appreciate the value of human life at all, let alone any one single life. Why would he choose to reanimate someone? Especially someone as warped as Rorschach?
Lee: Well ... hey, here's an idea. Supposing Rorschach was never killed in the first place?
Editor 1: What?
Lee: Big Blue can teleport, right? Supposing he just teleported Rorschach somewhere else and - at the same time - teleported a bucket of offal to where he was standing? Nite Owl only thinks Rorschach is dead.
Editor 1: But what about Ozymandias and his grand plan? Rorschach's death is necessary otherwise -
Lee: Jeez, I can't believe you guys are being so unimaginative! Okay, so Rorschach's dead. Here's another idea. What about ... a legacy hero?!
Editor 2: You mean, like a Rorschach 2?
Lee: Exactly! Nite Owl and Silk Spectre were getting it on in Watchmen, right? Well, what if they have a son and that son grows up wanting to be a super hero too? He could find Rorschach's mask among Dan's old belongings and ... well, his parents were both legacy characters, so they'd be delighted if -
Editor 1: I - I'm not really feeling it, Jim.
Lee: Mr Lee.
Editor 1: Sorry. Mr Lee. You see, if you mess around with Rorschach's character, he -
Lee: Okay, okay. You're not crazy about resurrecting Rorschach. I get that. Let's park it for now and come back to it later. Let's talk about the Comedian instead. What do you think about him?
Editor 2: Umm - he's dead.
Lee: He's what? You mean the damn fool writer killed him off at the end of the book, too?
Editor 2: Ah, no. At the beginning.
Lee: The beginning?
Editor 1: Yeah. The book opens with the death of the Comedian.
Lee: Jesus! What cheap, two-bit hack wrote this stuff?! Doesn't he know anything about writing for comics?! Hey, but you know what? We could let Death give all the characters a reprieve from death.
Editor 2: Death?
Lee: The character Death. From Sandman. She's going to be in the DCU from now on, right? So, as soon as the Watchmen's world is integrated, she can give a reprieve to Rorschach and the Comedian. It's perfect!
Editor 2: You want Death to be in Watchmen 2?
Lee: Absolutely. It all fits!
Editor 1: Look, I'm still not sold on this. The fact that two of the most popular characters are dead is obviously a big issue here, but it's about more than that.
Lee: Look, I know you think that, although I'm widely acknowledged as one of the best super hero artists alive today, my story ideas aren't always exactly top notch, but don't worry. I know what the fans' real concerns are and I'm determined to be very sensitive about how we deal with those.
Editor 1: You are?
Lee: Of course! We'll put some clothes on Doctor Manhattan and bam! Problem solved!
Editor 1: Clothes?
Lee: Sure. I'm thinking a short leather jacket with lots of straps and buckles; maybe even a pocket or two, and ... oh, I know - he could wear black leggings!
Editor 1: The problem isn't about leggings -
Lee: Of course it is! You can solve any problem with leggings!
Editor 1: No, the point I'm trying to make is that the reason Watchmen has become a classic is because it's a novel. Part of what makes it work is the fact that it has an ending. It sets out to make a point, progresses through a number of story twists and finally presents the reader with a conclusion. If you make a sequel, if you turn it into a continuing series, you don't just make an inferior follow-up, you weaken the ending of the original story and diminish that in the process.
Lee: Hmm - look I can see you're not convinced. Well, never let it be said I pushed through ideas even when everyone else was against them. I'll tell you what I'm prepared to do ... let's put it to a vote. If you all decide Watchmen 2 is the worst idea in comics history, then we won't do it, okay?
Editor 2: You mean that?
Lee: Absolutely. We'll scrap that and I'll greenlight DKR 3 instead!