Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Before Watchmen

And let's face it, folks, there was a whole lot that went on before Watchmen. When the late and much-lamented Dick Giordano offered the then recently acquired Charleton line of Action Heroes from his former publisher to Alan Moore to develop a storyline, he was more than a little taken aback when the story Alan proposed involved ultimately killing off most of the characters. "Look," said Dick in as kindly a fashion he could, "I didn't go to all the time and trouble of gaining creative control of these characters only to have them knocked off in their first new story. What say you take the story you've developed, Alan, and create a batch of new characters to go with it?" Alan considered this briefly, and thus were the Watchmen born. Captain Atom became Doctor Manhattan, Peacemaker became the Comedian, Blue Beetle was now the Nite Owl, The Question was unquestionably Rorschach, Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt evolved into Ozymandias, and Silk Spectre was the new Nightshade. Alan, with the invaluable assistance of the talented Dave Gibbons, told his story, and went his merry way. I was the editor of most of those early issues, and I had a problem with Alan's intended ending to the series, specifically that the ending was almost verbatim the ending of a wonderful episode of the classic SF series, The Outer Limits, called "The Architects of Fear". When I argued with Alan that he had to change his ending because it had already been done, Alan's reply was simply, "Well, it hasn't been done by me." To this day, the redundant ending of Watchmen mars all of the book's other magnificent qualities for me.

Now, here it is, a quarter of a century later, and some of the greatest talent currently in comics is taking a new look at what made these classic characters click. Before Watchmen will explore the fascinating pasts of these characters in limited interlocking series with an eighth series that will run in the back of all of the other books. J. Michael Straczynski and Adam Hughes will explore exactly what makes Doctor Manhattan tick, while JMS and and the astonishing son/father team of Andy and Joe Kubert reveal the past of Nite Owl. The multi-talented Darwyn Cooke will write and illustrate the history of the Minutemen, while Darwyn will write and the amazing Amanda Conner will illustrate the story of the Silk Spectre. Brian Azzarello will write The Comedian, to be illustrated by J.G. Jones, and Rorschach, which will be drawn by Lee Bermejo. Meanwhile your humble blogger will be telling the true history of Ozymandias, with the stunning Jae Lee handing the art. Finally, the original Watchmen colorist, John Higgins, will be illustrating, and I will be writing The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, one of the many other pirate titles DC published in the Watchmen world in lieu of super-hero comics, though this rather elaborate story will be running in two-page segments through the entire rest of the Before Watchmen line.

It will be a daunting task, to say the least, but each and every one of us is eager for the challenge. The release dates will be announced shortly. Keep an open eye and an open mind and we'll talk about all this as things progress. It's gonna be an interesting Summer.