WonderCon Liveblog: Before Watchmen

DC has a panel about their most controversial project, the Watchmen prequels. Here's what they have to say.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Before Watchmen

Before Watchmen – some cheer, some boo. Here's DC talking about the prequels at Comic-Con, liveblogged as it was said.


The panelists today at the DC Special All Access Panel about Before Watchmen are Dan DiDio, Len Wein, Will Dennis, Joe Straczynski, and Mark Giorello.

Didio says this idea goes back to when the Watchmen movie trailer premiered, and during that time, they sold hundreds of thousands of Watchmen copies. These were all new people trying this, and they tried to follow it up with similar things, but they decided people really wanted to read more Watchmen. They're trying to grow this business, and they want to lead with their best projects, and having the Watchmen sitting on the shelf felt like a waste of characters. The business model is building on characters over time, but people were worried about the challenge of living up to the quality of the original material.

Didio knows he's sitting on something with a special feeling.

Now they're doing something people think they shouldn't be doing, but he is confident the new stuff will be just as exciting as the original.

They knew there'd be a firestorm of controversy and protest, so they assembled talent with no fear and who were willing to take risks.

What are the 5 Truths?  JMS says this came from the question of the unifying theme – 1. Truth you tell to casual types, 2. Truth to friends and families. 3. Truth you tell your inner circle of closest people 4. Truth you tell yourself, 5. Truth you don't tell yourself.

The artists are all handling their own covers.

Len Wein was the original Watchmen series editor. Wein says he always hoped there would be more Watchmen stuff, and he's having more fun on this than he has in decades. It's an adventure, exploring the aspects of the characters that didn't get touched on. There are always new things to explore in iconic characters. Every issue, he finds new things.

DiDIo says the brainstorming for the project was like Sunday morning Bible class with the origianl Watchmen book in front of them. All riffed ideas were also referenced in the book to find places to fit new stories in so they don't contradict any of the original material and it will feel like one cohesive work.

Wein has no trepidations whatsoever – he's the only other person to write these characters, for the video game. When he got the call, he asked 'who do I have to kill to do this?'

JMS says he offered to kill Len to do this. Haw haw. JMS has no fear of this whatsoever, but he wants to be very true to the source material. With Dr. Manhattan, he wants to tell a quantum sci-fi story, and bring in the elements of free will. "We all think we can do a better job than God, but very few of us can handle the math," he says of telling quantum physics stories. Giorello had no notes for JMS' first Dr. Manhattan script, and nothing for the second, either.

Will Dennis remembers panicking that he missed an issue of Watchmen when it first came out. He's read it all once a year since then, and there's always something new to find in it. The material is resilient and interesting and deep.

JMS mentions Silk Spectre finding a supervillain fan photo in Dreiberg's closet and that story never gets told. Why not?

Dennis says this is a lineup of the most volatile, challenging creators in the industry.  DiDio dubbed them the Dirty Dozen. Dennis says that notion is the only thing that may save them in this effort – these folks don't have a lot to prove and don't have to work for attention. The support they've given each other feels a lot more genuine than most kudos, and it's the only way they can pull it off.

Dennis and Giorello talks about how the characters are divvied up for editing and their working relationship. Dennis was 'fuck yeah' excited to work on this project when he was asked. They both read scripts and have a good feedback unit. The material, for the most part, is really solid.

Did Wein ever lay down his O.G. cred to overrule anybody? He says he never had that ego of knowing the best way to do it. He's excited to read everybody else's stuff as revelatory to him. He says he had arguments with Alan Moore way back when, and he won some and lost some.

John Higgins was the colorist on the original, and he's Len Wein's artist on Crimson Corsair. Wein didn't know he was as good and as dedicated as he is as an artist. Wein says half of what he's doing comes from John's suggestions. This was originally suggested as a new Tale of the Black Freighter, so this is just an entirely different pirate comic of the rea.

Jim Lee joins the panel as his Nite Owl cover is shown. He wanted to do something simple so he could meet his Justice League deadlines, so it's a sketch of him in a police lineup in an iconic pose (with Batman's shadow, apparently)

Some Lee Bermejo sketches are shown of Watchmen team photos. Then the progression to color and then the finished work with more color and a better logo that doesn't look like an ape of the Marvel movie logo schtick… and then they redo it with the characters in the letters of the logo, so it looks like that again.



Q: A fan asks about the Minutemen – will there be an ongoing possibility? They are waiting to see how this works, and then plan from there. They'll have to see how the fan response is. JMS says the books have a larger page count – 23-24 pages, with a 2 page Crimson Corsair backup story in it.

Q: Batgirl of San Diego asks about enthusiasm for comics with people of color like Static Shock as strong as it is for this.  Question asked badly, and Jim Lee argues against the notion that they're not doing that already.

Q: Will Watchmen be its own Earth in the multiverse – and will the Canterbury Cricket show up? DiDio hopes they never see the Canterbury Cricket again. They want to stay true to the material, and it works unto itself, and folding it into the multiverse isn't what they're talking about here, but the original Charlton Comics world might be one of those alternate worlds, too – the Charlton world being what the Watchmen characters were based on.

Q: How many issues are each title going, are there cliffhangers and such? They're not being released monthly – it's one book per week. 7 miniseries with alternating schedules. Minutemen, Silk Spectre, Nite Owl, Comedian, Ozymandias are first, then the second issues come out, and then the next series starts, 4 #1s in June, 1 #1 in July, 2 #1s in August, they'll all interlock. Cliffhangers definitely a part of this. Dennis says the scripts are very dense, and says the knock for a long time on Azzarello is that his stuff has been thin. Minutemen, Ozymandias and Comedian are all 6 part stories, the others are 4 part stories. A lot of story in those 4 issues.

Q: For new readers, is this a good jumping on point? JMS says it's designed to be new reader friendly, but you can read them on their own. Watchmen is the fight, and Before Watchmen is the journey there – like Rocky movies.

Q: Are these origin stories, or just a previous adventure? The answer is yes.

Q: Famous quotations at the end of all the original issues, will that be here, too? JMS says 'not so much, but it's a good idea.' Wein says some titles are taken from poems. A lot of the conceits from the original series as far as layouts and such are carrying over for some of them.

Q: If this is successful, will there be an animated feature? No discussions of that yet. They're focused on publishing not ancillary exportation (or was it exploitation) of these characters.

Q: If Captain Atom fought Dr. Manhattan, who would win? JMS says 'if they got in a fight, they would trash your house.'