After years of rumors, DC has confirmed that they will publish BEFORE WATCHMEN, a series of seven interconnected prequels to the Alan Moore/Dave GIbbons classic. As absurd as the idea may seem on the surface, they have rounded up a bunch of A-listers for the project which will consist of six mini series, a wrap-up and an ongoing pirate-themed “featurette”. Here’s the line-up:
– RORSCHACH (4 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Lee Bermejo
– MINUTEMEN (6 issues) – Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
– COMEDIAN (6 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: J.G. Jones
– DR. MANHATTAN (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artist: Adam Hughes
– NITE OWL (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artists: Andy and Joe Kubert
– OZYMANDIAS (6 issues) – Writer: Len Wein. Artist: Jae Lee
– SILK SPECTRE (4 issues) – Writer: Darwyn Cooke. Artist: Amanda Conner
The issues will be released weekly, each featuring a two-page back-up story called CURSE OF THE CRIMSON CORSAIR, written by Wein wih art by original series colorist John Higgins. Everything wraps up with a group effort in a one-shot BEFORE WATCHMEN: EPILOGUE.
And then everyone sits down for tea.
Perhaps anticipating that the reaction would veer between excitement and revulsion, DC’s official statements were not triumphal:
“It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. “After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original.”
“Comic books are perhaps the largest and longest running form of collaborative fiction,” said DiDio and Lee. “Collaborative storytelling is what keeps these fictional universes current and relevant.”
Original creator Dave Gibbons statement is also lacking in triumphalism:
“The original series of WATCHMEN is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell. However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire,” said Dave Gibbons, WATCHMEN co-creator and original series artist.
It was left to the NY Times to deliver Alan Moore’s statement:
Mr. Moore, who has disassociated himself from DC Comics and the industry at large, called the new venture “completely shameless.”
Speaking by telephone from his home in Northampton, England, Mr. Moore said, “I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago.”
… Still, Mr. Moore said he was unlikely to stand in the way of Before Watchmen or to fight the project in court, where he said DC Comics would meet him with an “infinite battery of lawyers.”
“I don’t want money,” he said. “What I want is for this not to happen.”
“As far as I know,” he said, “there weren’t that many prequels or sequels to ‘Moby-Dick.’ ”
The Times piece does manage to capture the mixed feelings over the project. Azzarello shrewdly predicts that people will be initially scornful because “a lot of comic readers don’t like new things,” hich misses the point that this isn’t exactly new.
“I think the gut reaction is going to be, ‘Why?’ ” Mr. Azzarello said in a telephone interview. “But then when the actual books come out, the answer will be, ‘Oh, that’s why.’ ”
Yet novelist Jonathem Lethem, who says the projects is “inviting a disgrace,” admits that the original itself is a mash-up of Charlton, Brecht/Weil and Shelley.
Even as the news rolled out, the interviews and exclusive sneaks are also rolling out. Your scorecard, Via The Source
• USA Today: RORSCHACH – Interview with writer Brian Azzarello
• LA Times Hero Complex: MINUTEMEN – Interview with writer/artist Darwyn Cooke
• The New York Times: THE COMEDIAN – Interview with writer Brian Azzarello
• Entertainment Weekly: SILK SPECTRE – Interview with writer Darwyn Cooke
• The Hollywood Reporter: NITE OWL – Interview with writer J. Michael Straczynski
• Wired: OZYMANDIAS – Interview with writer Len Wein
• Comic Book Resources: DR. MANHATTAN – Interview with writer J. Michael Straczynski
• Associated Press: CURSE OF THE CRIMSON CORSAIR – Interview with writer Len Wein and artist John Higgins
And here’s the art:
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.