Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre

A lot of interest in Before Watchmen will focus on Rorschach, The Comedian and Dr. Manhattan, but what about Silk Spectre? Jennie argues that Alan Moore's superheroine has innate potential...

Silk Spectre Amanda Conner

Upon the announcement of the Before Watchmen event this summer there was a collective ‘Oh good god no!’ from the Alan Moore fanboy-fangirl collective. Reactions have been mixed at best and while some comics fans are looking forward to the event – myself included – others are reacting to the news with open hostility.

With this kind of reaction it will be difficult for all of the creative teams involved in the event to make a positive impact on the more hysterical Watchmen fans, but it is the team producing Silk Spectre that I feel will have the hardest job at pleasing audiences.

After all, arguments surrounding the roles of women in comics still rage, and on the surface Watchmen could be considered to be a story with a rather anti-female stance. Moore wrote strong scenes involving women, including the origin of Laurie Juspeczyk, the second Silk Spectre – from her conception at the whim of The Comedian to replacing her crime-fighting mother with a younger model.

It would be easy to assume that, given some of the bleak subject material surrounding the Spectre family, the untold stories of these heroines could make for equally unsettling reading. It’s important to remember that these women were also role models in the comic and beyond, and tough ones at that. The new Silk Spectre series could be a chance to show a new more positive side to the world of women in Watchmen.

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For anyone saying it’s all covered in the ‘graphic novel’: the issue of Laurie’s conception and some of her relationship with her mother is shown, her relationship to Dr Manhattan and Nite Owl is too, but little other than that. There’s not a great deal of how and why Laurie became involved in crime-fighting – although we presume her mother had a lot to do with it – and we know hardly anything about her early years, what it was like for a young Laurie taking on the challenging role of following in her mother’s footsteps and continuing the legacy of the Silk Spectre.

In fact, we know a minimum about how Laurie became involved in the Watchmen team, so there is a lot of scope for expansion of her story. It makes sense that, in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, writer Darwyn Cooke suggested that this missing period in Laurie’s history is what his story will focus on. “What I realized is that as much as I really like Laurie, she’s really only just Dr Manhattan’s girlfriend and then Nite Owl‘s girlfriend. We never get to see her being self-sufficient and dealing with herself and dealing with her own problems.”

Cooke clearly thought about the character before taking on Silk Spectre. “She’s there for a man. I came up with the idea of looking at the brief period of time when she becomes an adult …the series will take place in the mid-1960s, and track Laurie’s maturation and heroic evolution in the year prior to joining a team of superheroes known as the Crimebusters.”

It was also reported that the series will focus on how Laurie’s mother, the first Silk Spectre, influenced the path of her life.

What’s exciting is that Darwyn Cooke is more than qualified to pen this tale. Cooke was the writer and artist on the successful DC: New Frontier, a six-issue limited series from 2003-2004. The series featured DC’s greatest heroes coming together to save the world in a Cold War 1950s, where respect for superheroes is at an ultimate decline. Sound familiar anyone?

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Cooke will be working with artist Amanda Connor, whose most notable comic works include Power Girl for DC. Connor has a style that’s crisp and typically comic book, with strong lines and distinct cartoony features; her style is very different to Dave Gibbons’ original artwork in visualisation of Watchmen.

Cooke feels the influence Connor will have on the project is critical. “The only way I could do this is if Amanda drew it. I desperately wanted this to not feel like a guy who is pushing 50 writing a teenage girl.” Wise words indeed.

With this creative team there is a lot of potential to show the second Silk Spectre in a whole new way, a positively female way that will show her as more than just the token woman as it so often felt in the original Watchmen. With Cooke writing and Connor’s input it seems like there would be a good balance between telling the story of Laurie coming of age as her own woman in the ‘60s, but also showing a high-calibre female superhero it in a bold way.

When taking into account all the details we have so far, it seems that Silk Spectre – and the same can be said of some of the other Before Watchmen books – is shaping up to be a very promising run. As a fan of superheroines in general I know I am keen to pick up this book. Perhaps it is time to give Before Watchmen a chance?

Entertainment Weekly

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