Before Watchmen: Ozymandias by Len Wein and Jae Lee
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jae Lee
Colorist: June Chung
Well this one is interesting because this one has Len Wein, who I met way back in 1980 I think at a comics con. He also edited the original Watchmen comics. I guess I was curious as to what his take on this character would be. I came away with mixed feelings. He did a few things with this character that were kind of interesting but I’m not certain they’re an improvement.
The one thing he does is sort of clear up this guy’s sexuality, sorta. It turns out that Ozy likes girls and guess what: Women like rich white dudes who look like and probably aspire to be Greek gods. Who knew. Of course the person who wanted to investigate Ozy for being a homosexual was crazy repressed Rorschack. Here’s the pivotal scene:
Now there’s another scene that suggests that he was bisexual in that he seems really close to the guy who gives him hashish, in sort of a Prince in the bathtub with another dude in “Under the Cherry Moon” kind of way. Must investigate. Hurm.
The other odd thing that he does is that he quotes entire sections of the original work and then he builds off of them. If you think you’re read these words before its because you have. But then he goes in a different direction with these things or fills in the blanks. He’ll spend a whole page rewriting the sections where Ozy gives up his money and travels through the far east, learning martial arts along the way. This was mentioned in the original but here we see it in practice. Or in the book we’re told that he makes a lot of money by way of invention. Wein totally reinvents this and makes him out to be a kind of stock guru, who I presume invents things later on. Again, all these things are consistent with the book.
The one thing that Len does that strikes me as off key is why Ozy decided to don a mask. (Spoiler ahead). It turns out that his girlfriend, his only one as far as I can tell, was murdered by some bad drugs. So of course he dons the mask and decides to avenge her. What? I don’t think this is something the smartest guy in the world would do. I mean, if you really wanted to end death from taking bad drugs then you would legalize drugs the same way that you legalized alcohol. Yes, you can still die from alcohol but not because of impurities. The major reason you don’t die, although there are major lobbies working to change this so be afraid be very afraid, from drinking is that alcohol is regulated. Or if you’re watching HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” some of the booze that was made was sheer poison and ending prohibition fixed that. Why wouldn’t the world’s smartest man use his powers to legalize drugs as has been done in Portugal? Even if he stops Moloch the drug war continues. Wouldn’t the brightest guy on Earth know this? I found that odd.
The art, yet again, is a revelation. So beautiful it hurts to look at it. Looks like classic Tim Conrad to me. Well done. Never seen this Jae Lee person probably because I just don’t read enough mainstream comics but clearly gifted. Looks painted and the coloring is astounding as well.
Bottom line: 3.8 out of 5 stars. Better art than writing as usual but I’m curious and I’m kind of wondering how this all ends.