After years of rumors and, more recently, leaks of character designs, DC Comics has announced plans to publish Before Watchmen, seven interconnected series of new comics stories based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s acclaimed superhero epic Watchmen. However, publication will be controversial: Alan Moore is actively opposed to the new series and fans will be torn between curiosity about new Watchmen stories and support of Moore.
Before Watchmen is the collective banner around the seven series, which will be crafted as prequels to the Watchmen graphic novel and explore the background of seven of Watchmen’s iconic characters. The series will also feature work by some of DC’s best writers and artists.
The Before Watchmen series include Rorschach (4 issues) by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Bermejo; Minutemen (6 issues) by writer/artist Darwyn Cook; Comedian (6 issues) by Azzarello and artist J.G. Jones; Dr. Manhattan (4 issues) by writer J. Michael Straczynski and artists Andy and Joe Kubert; Nite Owl (4 issues) by writer Len Wein and artist Jae Lee; Ozymandias (6 issues) by Wein and artists Jae Lee; and Silk Spectre (4 issues) by writer Darwyn Cooke and artists Amanda Conner.
In a release DC Entertainment co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee justified the publication of the prequels, despite Moore’s opposition. “It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant,” the copublishers said 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 Before Watchmen series will be released on a weekly basis and each issue will include a 2-page backup story called Curse of the Crimson Corsair written by original series editor Len Wein and with art by original series colorist John Higgins.
While the series will certainly create a buzz among fans—as well as big sales—it remains controversial because of Moore’s persistent opposition to pretty much any derivative publications based on Watchmen. Fans will be torn between supporting Moore and curiousity about how the new teams of creators can further the Watchmen narrative.
Moore has been battling with DC Comics for nearly 30 years over the publication of Watchmen as a graphic novel, asserting that he originally believed the rights to book would revert back to him. Contracts in the traditional comic book industry are generally work-for-hire deals with some variation depending on the stature of the artists involved. In this instance, while Moore does receive royalties from book sales, DC controls the ability to produce derivative works--including movies and new comics based on the property. As a result Moore has disavowed both the movie version of Watchmen and the 2006 movie version of another of his graphic novels, V for Vendetta, refusing to accept any money for them.
Watchmen was originally published as traditional periodical comic books and serialized in 1985-1986. However once the work was collected and published as a book in 1987, it became an instant classic, has never been out of print and is probably DC Comics' best selling graphic novel of all time. Long a backlist bestseller, since the Watchmen movie adaptation was released in 2009, the book has sold millions of copies.
While not actively opposed to the project, Moore’s co-creator Dave Gibbons is nevertheless, not participating. However he said, “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.”