A while ago, a few very select comics press outlets were invited to the NY and Burbank offices of DC Comics to look at the pages of the BEFORE WATCHMEN prequels. Of course, only the tip top of the comics media were allowed in: MTV Geek, IGN, CBR, Comicvine, and Mancave for 670 The Score Chicago Sports Radio.
We call shenanigans! Anyway, caveats were entered, impressions gleaned. Writers were not allowed to actually discuss plot points but rather give overall thoughts and gestaltic reactions.
Valerie Gallaher writes for MTV re the Comedian:
There was quite a lot of that issue to peruse — and while I cannot discuss the exact subject matter surrounding the story, I can assure you that it will probably be quite the controversy. If “Comedian” keeps going down the narrative road I think it will travel, I suspect we will all have a lot to talk about regarding it in the months ahead.
Joey Esposito at IGN, notes that there is lots of continuity:
Rest assured, the Before Watchmen books that are particular standouts – my favorites were the aforementioned Minutemen, Comedian, and Ozymandias – find a new approach to these characters that fits firmly in Watchmen continuity without stepping on the toes of events we’ve previously witnessed or read about. You’ll find yourself surprised by the plots of some of these books, and even giddy at the well-placed easter eggs for things that have a payoff in the original classic.
Mancave’s Alex Zalben on Rorschach:
WHY YOU WANT IT: If you like to feel dirty, you will love this book. Artist Lee Bermejo is an insanely good visual storyteller – the script was separate in this book, and we understood everything that was going on. The opening page is Rorschach’s mask depicted in the clouds over New York City, and it only gets better from there. Plus, if there’s one character we want more from in Watchmen, it’s Rorschach. Poor guy needs a little love.
Someone named ComicVine goes all bullet points on Ozymandias and the rest:
Written by Len Wein with art from Jae Lee. On sale July 4.
• I have goals to achieve. Dreams to make come true.
• This issue is like one big Norman Rockwell painting. The art is absolutely breathtaking. The visuals are amazing.
• Read penciled and inked versions.
• Really great layout — very different from the other books.
• Flashbacks to his youth.
• Colored version not available. Wonder how the colors will affect the art.
CBR’s big kahuna Jonah Weiland ventured forth himself and wrote:
CBR News was recently invited to the DC Entertainment offices in Burbank, CA to get an early look at “Before Watchmen.” Over two visits, I reviewed hundreds of pages of pencils, inks, a handful of colored pages, and even some lettered pages. Below we share some early impressions on the series, but note these aren’t full reviews as complete issues were not available. I should note I accepted this invitation with one simple question hanging over me the entire time: can these prequels even come close to the quality and standards set by the original? Regardless of what you make of the project in general, my impression is that these will be well crafted, engaging comics on their own terms.
While most commenters are aware of the controversial nature of the work, they are mostly won over by the execution, and Gallaher actually comes out on the side of the shared storytelling experience over individual creator rights:
Because if you see the Watchmen characters as currently being merely victims/tools of a faceless corporate entity, you really haven’t been paying attention. These characters are dangerous. These characters know exactly what they’re doing. These characters are bigger than any Summer comic book event, any sweaty-mad discussion on a comic book news message board, any slick press junket. Their desire to get out into the masses and infect them with what they represent — stir them to think — is probably bigger than their creator. I’m a subscriber to the belief that these characters represent powerful archetypes that have, to an extent, a life of their own.
Meanwhile, over in the UK for Kapow!, in an interview accompanied by this snippet of a Jim Lee alternate cover, DC co-publisher Dan Didio tells the Guardian he still hopes Alan Moore might read these books and…like them instead of tossing them on the compost heap:
He has not spoken to Moore about the prequels, but said that if the British author “did get a chance to read them, I hope he looks at them with an open mind and a chance to understand this is a love letter to what he created, and more importantly that the strength of his work is allowing other people to grow and tell other stories which will hopefully inspire other creators along the way. In the way he was inspired by the creators when he was younger, we’re hoping these ideas and these books are inspiring new people, so that we continue to grow the comics business as a whole.”
There you go: Dan DiDio, world’s biggest optimist.
Our own takeaway:
• Based on all the notes about “controversy” and shock—and hell, the art that’s been released—we do expect these books to be extremely violent and rapey—like the original, sure, but with added fun.
• As we keep saying over and over, the controversy is not about whether Darwyn Cooke can draw or not.
• It’s going to be a big day for Spain Rodriguez!
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.