DC Comics to publish controversial 'Watchmen' prequels. Will you buy them? An EXCLUSIVE first look at artwork, creative details

Before-Watchmen-cover

Geekdom, get ready to rumble with excitement…or grumble with outrage. Or both. In an announcement sure to ignite a firestorm of fanboy passion and pique, DC Entertainment revealed today that DC Comics will publish a collection of miniseries that will expand upon the world of Watchmen, the influential superhero saga originally released as a 12-issue maxi-series from 1986 to 1987. Marked by bravura storytelling, provocative politics, and gritty violence, Watchmen is best known for deconstructing superhero archetypes embodied by cultural icons like Superman and Batman. (You can read our 2005 oral history about the genesis, creation, and legacy of the series here.) Why might the new comics be controversial? Because Watchmen’s widely revered writer, Alan Moore, who has long been at war with DC for any number of reasons, has absolutely nothing to do with them.

Branded Before Watchmen, the long-rumored project–which has been on-again, off-again in a variety of forms for years–will comprise seven miniseries created by an all-star lineup of talent, including Amanda Conner, who drew the first look at Silk Spectre posted here. Your roll call:

Rorschach (four issues): The vicious urban vigilante with an ink-blot mask. Written by Eisner Award winner Brian Azzarello of 100 Bullets fame, with art by Lee Bermejo.

The Comedian (six issues): Jackass jokester turned amoral super-soldier. Written by Azzarello, art by J.G. Jones.

Dr. Manhattan (four issues): Blue and nude atomic-power superman, profoundly detached from humanity. Written by J. Michael Straczynski, a superstar comics scribe equally known for his TV and film work (Babylon 5, Clint Eastwood’s 2009 film Changeling), with art by Adam Hughes.

Nite Owl (four issues): Maybe the most relatable of the Watchmen pantheon, a second-generation hero with high-tech weaponry. Written by Straczynski, art by Andy Kubert and his father, the legendary Joe Kubert.

Ozymandias (six issues): Super-smart, mega-wealthy, scary-ambitious. Written by another living legend (and original Watchmen editor) Len Wein, art by Jae Lee.

The Minutemen (six issues): The founding fathers of Watchmen’s superhero universe. Written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, whose recent work includes acclaimed comic adaptations Donald E. Westlake’s Parker crime novels.

Silk Spectre (four issues): The daughter of a pioneering female superhero, raised to be her mother’s replacement. Written by Cooke, art by Conner.

Wein will also write a two-page backup story that will run in each issue of each series called “Curse of the Crimson Corsair” with art by Watchmen’s colorist, John Higgins. Once each series has completed its run, DC will wrap up the initiative with a single issue entitled Before Watchmen: Epilogue, featuring contributions of several different writers and artists. The first issue of the first miniseries will drop this summer, title and date TBD. From there, new issues will roll out each week. In a joint statement, DC Entertainment co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee say the reason the company is launching Before Watchmen now is because “it’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant.… After twenty-five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told.” (Note: The Watchmen trade paperback remains one of the industry’s best-selling “graphic novels” despite the lack of new material since the comic’s original publication, and was so even before director Zack Snyder’s epic movie adaptation in 2009.)

In an exclusive interview with EW, Darwyn Cooke-–whose own highly regarded superhero work includes The New Frontier–explained his vision for Silk Spectre: “One of the first things I did was go back through the original book and look at all the female characters and their position in the story and the arcs they had. What I realized is that as much as I really like Laurie, she’s really only just Dr. Manhattan’s girlfriend and then Nite Owl‘s girlfriend. We never get to see her being self-sufficient and dealing with herself and dealing with her own problems. She’s there for a man. I came up with the idea of looking at the brief period of time when she becomes an adult.” And so the series will take place in the mid-1960s, and track Laurie’s maturation and heroic evolution in the year prior to joining a team of superheroes known as the Crimebusters. Cooke says the book will also focus on how Laurie’s superhero stage mom, the original Silk Spectre, influenced her daughter’s life. “Sally’s very interested in the legacy that can be created from the Silk Spectre brand,” says Cooke. “There’s a little bit of that Toddlers and Tiaras thing going on.” He adds that collaborating with Conner was essential: “The only way I could do this is if Amanda drew it. I desperately wanted this to not feel like a guy who is pushing 50 writing a teenage girl.”

NEXT: A more “hopeful” Watchmen. Also: Why the potential for controversy?

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