So, the long-rumored anathema is now a reality – DC Comics is returning to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' seminal Watchmen world without Moore's consent or involvement with a series of prequel books starting this summer.
“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 in a joint statement. “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.”
“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.
“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.”
Some very impressive creators have lined up to take part in this madness, however, and truth be told, they will probably craft some pretty cool stories. It's just the principle of the thing that doesn't sit right.
Here's the rundown of who and what to expect in the Before Watchmen project.
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
Here's your first look at Before Watchmen: Curse of the Crimson Corsair, from original series editor Len Wein and original series colorist John Higgins. This story will unfold in each issue as a two-page back-up in each issue, and then another Crimson Corsair story will be in a final book called Before Watchmen: Epilogue. Here's a look at the covers around the web for Ozymandias and Silk Spectre. Hollywood Reporter also has an image of the Nite Owl prequel cover, not to mention an interview with Straczynski, who makes every effort to deflate the notion that Moore's wishes and intentions need to be respected after all this time.
"Leaving aside the fact that the Watchmen characters were variations on pre-existing characters created for the Charleton Comics universe," JMS explains, "it should be pointed out that Alan has spent most of the last decade writing very good stories about characters created by other writers, including Alice (from Alice in Wonderland), Dorothy (from Wizard of Oz), Wendy (from Peter Pan), as well as Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Jeyll and Hyde, and Professor Moriarty (used in the successful League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). I think one loses a little of the moral high ground to say, 'I can write characters created by Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and Frank Baum, but it’s wrong for anyone else to write my characters.'"
For his part, Moore described this project as "completely shameless" to the New York Times. “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.”
This hurts to think about, especially because the idea feels so wrong, but at the same time, Azzarello and Bermejo doing Rorschach sounds unbelievably good. Darwyn Cooke telling tales of the Minutemen, and Amanda Conner drawing the Silk Spectre? Dammit, why couldn't these be any easier to resist?
No matter how cool some of this looks, no matter how good and respectful these folks will try to be, it's still really hard to shake the notion that any spin-offs of Watchmen are just going to seem like this: