Comic book writer-artist Darwyn Cooke’s pedigree as a creator is spectacular. His “Justice League: New Frontier” comic won many of comics’ top awards, including an Eisner, Harvey and Shuster.
Cooke previously took on a revamp of “The Spirit,” the character most associated with Will Eisner, and created a critically acclaimed work. And his graphic novel adaptations of Richard Stark’s “Parker” novels have frequently found their way onto year-end “best of” lists. The next Parker adaptation, “The Score,” is due out in July.
So Cooke was perhaps a natural choice for DC Comics when looking for a creator of unassailable credentials to work on the prequels to the “Watchmen” graphic novel.
“Before Watchmen” is a prequel to the graphic novel “Watchmen,” in multiple miniseries with multiple creators. Alan Moore, who co-created the work with artist Dave Gibbons, has said he wished DC wouldn’t have proceeded with the prequel project.
Set in an alternate 1985 on the brink of nuclear war, “Watchmen” is one of the medium’s most acclaimed graphic novels. The mature, complex storyline was created by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons in 1986-87. It was adapted into a Zack Snyder film in 2009.
Cooke is writing and drawing “Before Watchmen: Minutemen” for the publisher, and collaborating with artist and longtime friend Amanda Conner on “Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre.”
“Amanda and I have always kind of quietly watched one another do our thing, and think, yeah, you see? He gets it. She gets it,” Cooke said in a recent interview with The Oklahoman. “We kind of approach things in the same obsessive way. And this just was an ideal opportunity. They had asked me to look at ‘Silk Spectre’ as a character. And while I could look at her as a character, I couldn’t in full confidence say I’m the guy to write a 16-year-old girl. And once I had an idea, which I really was in love with, I kind of made it a condition that we bring Amanda in.”
While he’s working in a team for “Silk Spectre,” that’s not Cooke’s usual method. And for “Minutemen,” he’s taking on his usual role as writer/artist. The Minutemen are a team of 1940s-era heroes from “Watchmen,” the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
“To me, the Minutemen, the appeal of them is their humanity, you know, how completely sort of human they are, and how they all had their own agenda, and how they put this thing together in an ad-hoc fashion,” Cooke said.
He said Moore and Gibbons’ “Watchmen” has left room for further exploration of these characters.
“They were simply placeholders, or archetypes meant to represent what had come before,” Cooke said. “So I had room to develop them as individuals, and that, I think, is working out as well.”
Cooke says he can understand why some people might not want a “Watchmen” sequel to be created, though he disagrees.
“For the most part, I try to have respect for the subjective nature of people’s attachment. There are things I’m subjectively attached to … I have to be able to respect the way they feel about it. I think that’s important, whether I agree with them or not.”
But he said he thinks the “noise” around the project has in some ways been distracting.
“I’m just going to put my head down, do my best, and let everybody sort it out later.”
The first issues of “Before Watchmen: Minutemen” and “Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre” are on sale now, as is “Before Watchmen: Comedian” No. 1 by Brian Azzarello and J.G. Jones.
- By Matthew Price
From Friday’s The Oklahoman