DC Confirms New Watchmen Comics

35-part Before Watchmen due this summer

The storm has been approaching for a couple of years now, but it broke yesterday with DC announcing that Alan Moore's iconic graphic novel Watchmen is to finally get the franchise treatment. It's not strictly movie news (although there are possible implications) but we thought you might be interested...

The story dates back to a change of regime at DC in 2010. Despite the company's very public falling-out with the irascible Moore, DC's head honcho Paul Levitz was always adamant that Watchmen, at least in print form, was sacred ground not to be invaded. When Levitz stepped down, however, Watchmen was no longer sequestered by in-house defenders, and with Zack Snyder's movie propelling the book to the status of DC's all-time bestseller, the company's senior vice-president Dan DiDio made an expanded Watchmen universe a pet project.

Much speculation and rumour followed (largely fuelled by the alarmist fanboys at Bleeding Cool), but the result turns out to be seven inter-connected prequel comic mini-series, published weekly under the banner Before Watchmen, starting this summer.

Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, Hellblazer) is writing the four-part Rorschach and the six-part Comedian. J Michael Straczynski (Amazing Spider-Man, Thor) gets four-part shots at Dr Manhattan and Nite Owl. Darwyn Cooke (Catwoman, New Frontier) is behind the four-issue Silk Spectre and the six-issue Minutemen. And Watchmen's original editor Len Wein is providing six issues of Ozymandias. Each issue will contain two pages of a new pirate story Curse Of The Crimson Corsair (again by Wein), and there'll also be a multi-authored Before Watchmen: Epilogue.

Original Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons is quoted in DC's press release cautiously wishing the project well. Moore though, true to form, was quick to denounce it, telling the New York Times, "It's completely shameless. I tend to take this latest development as confirmation that [DC] are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago. I don't want money; I just want it not to happen."

A defensive Straczynski confidently hit back, calling Moore's position "absolutely understandable and deeply flawed." He pointed out that "the Watchmen characters were variations on pre-existing characters created for the Charleton Comics universe."

"As far as I know, there weren't many prequels or sequels to Moby Dick," sniffed Moore. But Moore has spent much of the last decade writing The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (using characters created by Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, HG Wells, H Rider Haggard and so on), and Lost Girls (a pornographic team-up of Oz's Dorothy, Wonderland's Alice and Peter Pan's Wendy). If Moby Dick never had spin-offs, it's possibly only because Moore never got round to using Ahab. Pot? Kettle?

"I don’t hear Alan suggesting that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should have been allowed to write Superman," says Straczynski. "Certainly Alan himself did this when he was brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein. The whole point of having great characters is the opportunity to explore them more deeply. That DC allowed these characters to sit on a shelf for over two decades as a show of respect is salutary, but there comes a time when good characters have to re-enter the world."

“It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant,” said Didio. "Collaborative storytelling is what keeps these fictional universes fresh.”

DC's press release calls Before Watchmen "As highly anticipated as it is controversial." Controversial? You don't say. Give us your thoughts in the comments below.