Yesterday the internets went crazy as fanboys the world over started to share and debate the hottest cult news:
Comic Gods DC (I prefer Marvel – Team Stan) have announced that they are to release a fiercely-debated sequel to the best-selling graphic novel of all time, Watchmen.

Before Watchmen Rorschach Cover Artwork

This action has single-handedly caused the biggest divide in the cult comic franchise since Hollywood super-sap Tobey McGuire was chosen to play a hapless Peter Parker.  Many love the idea, desperate to see some additional Watchmen content – though these tend to be the same people that championed the live-action cinematic remake also – with many more arguing that the idea is a vehicle for securing financial gain rather than an attempt to provide genuinely appealing content. Relatively new to the franchise, I myself welcome the idea. I’ve not been around since the beginning (I was born the year of the initial release) and so don’t have the innate protective tendency that many people seemingly have for it. Yet, I ABSOLUTELY understand their desire to keep something original and pure, not dilute it with contemporary adaptations or sequels – see my rant on Akira. From what I’ve seen though, I don’t think that these new iterations will damage the original at all, instead adding more to the characterisation and plot development.

Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, DC Entertainment Co-Publishers, appear to agree, releasing the following statement:”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. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original.”
Clearly this is not a decision that has been taken lightly, and I don’t subscribe to the opinion that DC re simply milking on a prestigious cash cow. The project seems well planned and structured – let’s hope it’s as well executed!

Before Watchmen Nite Owl Cover Artwork

The new collection, entitled Before Watchmen, will comprise of seven inter-connected mini series, each focussing on a different character. Additionally, each mini series will include a two-page back-up story called ‘The Curse of the Crimson Corsair’ penned by original series editor Len Wein, with art by original colourist John Higgins. Wein describes how it was originally his idea: “Since, in the world of the Watchmen, DC stopped doing superhero comics early on and started a line of pirate comics instead, I thought it might be fun to see what one of the other books in the line looked like.” From the sounds of it, this will heavily parallel Moore’s ‘Tales of the Black Freighter‘, retaining the dark, sullen sense of foreboding.

There will also be a single issue to accompany the series, ‘Before Watchmen: Epilogue’, created by various writers and artists. See a list of the planned miniseries below:
  • 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

Before Watchmen Comedian Cover Artwork

Watchmen writer Alan Moore has publicly decried any further adaptation of his original work. However interstingly, Dave Gibbons, the original artist and co-creator has been more supportive – “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”.

John Higgins has further commented on the difficulties of updating the franchise: “The challenge is to make the stories modern and relevant to 2012 and to show what can be done with respect and consideration for the source material that has inspired so many people over the years. By adding to the mythos and not to detract from it,” he said. “‘The Watchmen’ had such an influence on graphic storytelling since it first appeared and is a timeless classic. If we can create a new set of stories that can be enjoyed 25 years on, that would be an achievement and a reward in itself.”

Excited doesn’t cut it.

  1. Eliot Jones says:

    I dont think Before Watchmen is really going to cause any damage, but I think that if it treats itself; as the title “Before…” perhaps implies, as a sort of prequel existing to fill in the holes and enrich the original storyline it is destined to fail. I’m going to try and not sound crazy by saying the original narrative is faultless (although it is close), but I do think the story and psychological characterisation is complete, rather than something to be bolstered with more narrative exploration, it is a potent bed for new stories with rich and interesting characters with alot of scope for new adventures. I think the Gibbons’ and Higgins’ quotes say it all really, rather than being a sequel or addition to the Watchmen story (which in his mind is complete and told), Before Watchmen should be its own independent extension, not filling in gaps or enriching the characterisation of the original, but drawing on them to build its own new stories. I cant say im excited, but intrigued with suspicion.

  2. trixfred30 says:

    Cheers I’ve actually read something worth knowing today! I liked the film of the original right up until the end when they chickened out and put in a ‘masses friendly’ ending

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