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!


  1. What the hell does that quote from Valerie Gallaher even mean? I guess the “desire of these characters” to “get out to the masses and infect them” must have been getting really annoying after 25 years. Is that what Levitz was doing all these years? Keeping the infection in check?

    Sounds to me like the shill for one big corporation justifying the actions of another with the most specious reasoning possible.

  2. In her article she basically writes that the characters are too well made to be locked up, and maybe too well conceived to be adulterated. Editorial therefore had no choice but to unleash them on the world. She doesn’t mention whether Didio gave them his little black book and asked them to pick their favorite creators, or whether they were simply given a vote at the DC summit. The important thing to remember is that this had to happen. Nobody in editorial, and none of the creators had a choice, a choice the were very brave in not making.

  3. DC as a corporation has been bashed for doing the project, the creators have been bashed for participating in the project…I’m waiting for the internet and some comics blogs to start bashing anyone who A) Actually buys the comics and B) Doesn’t hate them.

  4. I don’t understand the Before Watchmen/Spain Rodriguez connection….is there one? I’ve seen the series and artist mentioned a number of times now. I know a certain other comics reporter has been making the comparison/contrast and I appreciate the spirit of that, but is there a connection outside of that?

  5. 1. Why should they invite people from comics sites? They’re trying to reach people that don’t already know about it. People that read comics sites are already comics fans and already know about it.

    2. Why should they invite people from comics sites that have already and unequivocally stated how much they are against the project? For example, someone from the Beat. As it is, you have an extremely negative viewpoint and article WITHOUT getting the preview.

    But hell, you have to admit, all this Before Watchmen vitriol has gotten this site more page views than any article talking about how cool some indy book that no one has ever heard of and no one will buy is.

  6. Jonboy: 1. Actually that is so not true, as I know from some projects I have worked on in the past.

    2. I definitely don’t expect to get a BW exclusive cover. And that’s fine. I’d get a ton more traffic if all I posted was movie news, superhero news and hot girls. I post what interests me and it interests an audience large enough to support the site. I’m happy with that equation.

  7. @ Jonboy: the PTB at DC are aware enough to know that they’ve got a vocal minority of fans that are outraged by these books, so reaching out to some of the big sites among the fan community makes sense. If they can get some of those sites to support them, it might help quiet some of the complainers.

    And, of course, there’s always the possibility that these characters asked for them, since they know exactly what they’re doing. Rorschach: “I always wanted to meet Jonah Weiland”.

    Forgot to say earlier that I really do love the idea of Dan Didio, world’s biggest optimist.

  8. I find it strange that people are implying that Valerie (D’Orazio) Gallaher would be in the tank for Dan Didio. I’ve been reading her for years, and her take has never been anything more positive than that he eats fried babies for breakfast, hates women, and is determined to replace all the fun in comics with rape, violence, and sexism in every panel of every issue.

    Also, the notion that Time Warner and Viacom are going to share some conspiratorial corporate synergy also strikes me as unlikely. Are the Before Watchmen reality show, McDonald’s Happy Meal, MMORPG, and juice-box tie-in going to be joint ventures between Time Warner and Paramount? If not, then Viacom probably hopes Before Watchmen will be a big disaster.

  9. If you’ve really followed Valerie’s writings, she is a big believer in archetypes and the subjective unconscious. (Hope I’m not misinterpreting her.) From that standpoint, her comments make sense.

    I think it’s a very different view of the project….one that hasn’t been considered before. And sure provacative. But Alan Moore has also explored similar themes in PROMETHEA to name one work.

    Anyway remember no hating! Only commentary!

    Oh and Paul, Tom Spurgeons’s whole Spain Rodriguez thing is, as I see it, a way to distinguish between corporate owned comics franchises and the work of the honest craftsman cartoonists over a 40 year period with only a hazy idea of how it will pay off.

  10. I’m assuming the “no hating” was directed at my post and others directed at D’Orazio, but her belief in the collective unconscious is aligning awfully well with the corporate line.
    I agree that it’s provocative, and that you can make a connection to Moore’s musings on the same. But if you take it to its logical extreme, nobody really owns a character, and no damage can be done to a character by a creator. This is an idea I don’t think would go over easy with most of fandom, and it raises the question of why we should care about who’s writing/drawing these things in the first place.

  11. Val’s statements are refreshing and more than likely on the nose. They are archetypical, and that’s something Moore and his ideaspace may even buy into, in time.

    I won’t read the books though. Even archetypes can still be molested. While I agree with Val, I also see that this entire series is nothing but a play for $$$. So in that regard it’s not a matter of who’s watching (or reading) the Watchmen, it’s more like who’s using who- the Watchmen or DC. In the long term, those characters will be around longer than the carers of many of DC’s executives. In the short term, they are the ones bent over a table.

  12. I have to admit, I had no idea that Valerie Gallaher is Valerie D’Orazio (haven’t followed her work for awhile, I guess). Yes, she certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt. I still think her comments as quoted here are fairly preposterous.

  13. Interesting quote from Zack Synder on the Watchmen film. Sounds very familiar to Didio.

    “We all want to please Alan, and I think that’s a noble thing to want to do. There’s nothing wrong to get the guy who frickin’ created the thing to not hate it, I don’t think that’s an outrageous thing to want,” said Snyder.
    (He hopes Moore thinks)
    “You know, they didn’t fuck it up that bad.”

  14. I agree with you that it is bogus that they selectively invited some media outlets. What I wanna know why in the world they invited The Score here in Chicago!?!? That IS surprising.

    And lastly, if the theory is that DC is trying to reach out to bigger comic fans based on communities, and lesser the amount of controversy by minimizing the masses, is that really an excuse? And is it overrated? I say that, because, Before Watchmen: Minutemen is one of the most reordered comics, according to Bleeding Cool. Is in the top 3. So I question this tactic, cause if the initial intent is to create hype, then they should have invited ALL outlets than playing by the numbers. If they were trying to minimize PR damage with the invitation, then is not a problem as many think it would cause obviously the numbers say otherwise.

    Is safe to say who will buy em or not, and don’t act like the industry is back in the golden days. Is not. DC changed the game with their New 52, and woke everyone up. But the real winners are Image and IDW — etc. They are making a dent in the market, and arguably capitalizing with the infighting and “creator” rights with DC and Marvel. So if DC wants to play by the numbers, then they should, but for good reasons. And it doesn’t help either that these sites are talking about the infighting with DC, and even with Marvel with the movie Avengers(Starling ambivalent them using Thanos). Is fair talking about these issues, but is only a minority of the group cause the numbers say otherwise, and the industry is having a good year so far than last. So I think is just stupid being selective when is unnecessary, but whatever.

  15. That “quote” from Comicvine is just a few response notes that could/should have been turned into a real statement. If that’s a representational sample of their work, how did they get a press pass to this?

  16. I see some weak points in Gallaher’s arguments for BEFORE WATCHMEN:

    Think about it: fans and critics alike are going to go over every single sentence, every single panel. [. . .]

    It also doesn’t make a lot of sense to broadcast snap judgements on the quality of “Before Watchmen” before at least seeing some of the comics themselves.

    If you object to BEFORE WATCHMEN on aesthetic grounds, there’s no need to see any of the comics. The quality of the artwork or storytelling doesn’t refute the aesthetic objections, because Moore isn’t the writer. This is a situation in which a reviewer who objects to BW on aesthetic grounds should simply ignore everything.

    The characters in “Watchmen” have the same potential to make people think…to make people riot! To make people question their government, question authority, question views on morality and ethics. And if it is at all possible to competently continue telling stories using these characters to achieve these goals, I am all for it. [. . .]

    You can’t shoe-horn Superman or The Flash or some other classic DC character into the types of topical stories only the characters in Watchmen can pull off.

    However wonderful the Watchmen are in WATCHMEN, they’re elements in Moore and Gibbons’s story and nothing more than that. I’d guess that the people who would be the most inspired by political themes and allegories in BEFORE WATCHMEN would be likelier than others to reject it because of Moore’s opposition.

    DiDio’s comments in the Guardian article suggest that he sees the WATCHMEN characters as salable units. Put them in new, individualized packaging, promote them effectively, and they’ll sell as well as toys would.


  17. “Tom Spurgeons’s whole Spain Rodriguez thing is, as I see it, a way to distinguish between corporate owned comics franchises and the work of the honest craftsman cartoonists over a 40 year period with only a hazy idea of how it will pay off.”

    Promoting Spain Rodriguez is laudable but I’d like to see some talk about Steve Ditko’s recent and amazing comics in this context, because there’s a connection. If a reader wants to follow up on the aesthetic trail of Watchmen the Ditko Act series is a better way to go than DC’s attempt to franchise the characters.

  18. Pretty, oh so pretty artwork—

    But so VACANT.

    nuDC will be pressed on reporting the astouding! SOLD OUT!! numbers for these nuWATCHMEN issues to declare their nushafting of Alan Moore a success…

    Pass the popcorn.

  19. Can not wait to sell this, the greatest satisfaction , will come in rubbing it into the face of the one numbskull in 30 that comes into my store to gripe. Good times are coming to comic book stores everywhere, it is going to be a fun summer. My employees and myself will be doing a little dance everytime we sell one of these BW comics (think Mean Gene on the Gong Show) . Fun times coming aggravating the vocal minority.

  20. Hryhpy that is hilarious that is almost as funny as someone hanging on to a doomed business model that is dying. Keep count of all the new kids that come in to buy BW. I am sure they will be your future customers. That is awesome too funny you actually dislike like the people who feed you. Christ I hope you are old or have another skill because comic stores are gonzo.

  21. sorry , Jesse , we are doing better then ever! Sales up 25% this year (thanks DC!)–You miss my whole point , for the one person “ranting” about BW , there are 30 people buying , the people that are doing the ranting , are the ones that never spend any money anyway , and yes , aprx 40% of our 300+ BW holds are people 21 and under , so i am sorry , but you lose!–It is time for me to dance!!

  22. P.S. Jesse , just purchased some high grade Batman #3 , 4 and 5-Once i have them graded , i think that will pay my stores mortgage for the next 20 years. Sorry i will not be going anywhere, when you are in the North East , let me know , so i can roll out the red carpet

  23. Hryhpy, Please do I live in Mass and have family in NY and CT. Why don’t you lead with your store name so I can be sure to never go in there.

  24. Hryhpy, what no name? Come on look I live in MA. My brother is in Brooklyn, NY. I get tatooed in Portland Maine. I go to JetPack Comics in NH, do you know Ralph? How about Time Capsule in Providence RI! I love NE comic stores! Boston or NY? Come on you said you would roll out the RED CARPET, where you at big boy?

  25. Oh, Hryhpy. It think your enormous Internet b@lls must have shrunk up inside you. Maybe the vocal minority sales aren’t as small as you portrayed? Maybe your sales are not so robust? Maybe most of what you said, Batman 3, was not true? I mean you cannot possibly worry about loosing sales fom the vocal minority right? Red carpet buddy where is it?