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

Before-Watchmen-cover
Cooke counts himself among those creators and fans deeply marked and influenced by Watchmen. He discovered the series in his 20s while working as an art director for a fashion magazine, still several years away from beginning his celebrated career as an animator and comic-book storyteller. "Every couple months on a slow Saturday I would go down to the store and pick up a few books,” says Cooke. “I could remember picking up the first couple of Watchmen and being fascinated by it. Alan had completely reinvented how comics told stories.” But Cooke does find himself less enamored these days by one of the story’s defining aspects: The “pervasive darkness” of its worldview, which was largely an expression of the British Moore’s perspective on the Cold War, the legacy of '60s counterculture, and the conservative policies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. While Cooke believes Watchmen was “note perfect” for its time, “I’d consider it a masterpiece if it had been able to have found what I would refer to as a hopeful note. … Again, it’s not hard to understand [where Alan was coming from], and that sort of storytelling does have an allure for young people. [But]

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I think the older you get, the more you look for hope or positive things. Maybe I’m just getting old.” With that in mind, Cooke says Silk Spectre “is probably going to be the most hopeful of all the books.”

DC Comics is keenly aware that Before Watchmen has the potential to spark polarizing response. In fact, the company may even be banking on it. The press release issued today describes the series of titles “as highly anticipated as they are controversial.” (The press release also includes a statement from Watchmen co-creator and artist Dave Gibbons that has the feel of a blessing: “The original series of Watchmen is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted 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.”) Watchmen is a sacred text for a generation of comic-book readers who came of age during the 1980s, a period of extraordinary creative achievement that saw the medium reach new levels of maturity and sophistication. 1986 was a watershed year, notes Professor Jonathan Gray, who teaches graphic novels at the City University of New York. In addition to Watchmen: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Art Spiegelman’s Maus, as well as ongoing landmark works like Love & Rockets by Los Bros. Hernandez and Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg! “I feel the same way about 1986 and comics the way people of a certain age feel about 1963 and rock music: Everything that came out then was awesome, and everything that has come out since is a pale imitation.… The entire industry as we know it today came out of that moment.”

Consequently, many fanboys – most likely adult Gen Xers weaned on cutting-edge grim-and-gritty – feel an enduring affection and loyalty to Moore, whose opposition to more Watchmen has been well documented over the years. He even refused to allow his name to be attached to Snyder’s Watchmen film. Professor Gray, 40, admits he’s one of those fans, and cops to having a knee-jerk negative reaction to Before Watchmen. “The problem is that there are hundreds of thousands of people my age who are going to bitch about this because it does seem somewhat sacrilegious,” he says. “I think twentysomthings might go: ‘Cool! New stories!’ But is the cost going to be worth it? It’s a can’t lose in the short term, but I worry about the long term.”

Still, perhaps younger and newer generations of comic-book fans have less severe feelings on this matter. And when we told Professor Gray about the top-tier talents writing and drawing each series, he practically growled with tortured angst. “They’re going to make it really hard for people to say no. Those creative teams? I would buy, sight unseen, whatever they’re doing. But it’s terrible! The feeling I have in my body right now is the feeling DC wants. They’re like: ‘Yeah, you say you don’t want to buy it, but you totally want to know what Brian Azzarello is going to do with the Comedian.’ And that’s what’s blowing my mind right now. Dammit!”

Twitter: @EWDocJensen

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Image Credit: DC Comics

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