One of the best-selling graphic novels in history gets a prequel starting this week, and it's not been without its share of controversy.
“Before Watchmen” is a prequel to the graphic novel “Watchmen.”
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.
Moore said in an interview that his reaction to the prequels is “a certain degree of weary contempt.”
“It's gone beyond anger,” he told Fast Company. “It's almost tragically comical. It's commerce over art. I'm proud of the work I did on ‘Watchmen,' but it's surrounded by such a toxic cloud of memories.”
Gibbons, who co-created the “Watchmen” series with Moore, shared his thoughts at DC Comics' Source blog in February.
“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,” Gibbons said.
“Watchmen” is a superhero murder mystery that has layers of depth both in the plot and the artwork. When superhero-turned-government agent The Comedian is murdered, his former colleague Rorschach goes into action. Rorschach suspects someone is targeting the now-outlawed masked vigilantes for extinction.
The new prequels will fill out story elements occurring before the events of “Watchmen” over the course of seven miniseries.
In an interview with The Oklahoman, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio said the success of DC Comics in relaunching its entire superhero line in 2011 helped provide momentum for “Before Watchmen.”
“We started with ‘The New 52' last year, and it was something that everybody said you couldn't do, that it was impossible to do,” DiDio said in a phone interview. “But we found a way to make it work, and not only that, to be successful at it.
“So when you do that, it sort of gives you the impetus to make sure that you're examining all the best ways to approach product, and more importantly, to put out the strongest publishing line possible.”
DiDio said the fan interest in “Watchmen” has remained strong since the book's release in the late 1980s.
“But we also knew that the only way we could do it, is by assembling the best team possible, the best writers, the best artists for the execution,” DiDio said. “Once we found them, then I think that gave us the strength and the excitement to go ahead and do this.”
DiDio said fans who are concerned over Moore's disassociation with the product should look at the creators who are involved.
“If you've liked these characters, and you loved the story that was told with them, then you have to walk into this with an open mind, and try the product,” DiDio said. “Because what we did is we made sure that regardless of what your opinion might be about producing it, you cannot challenge the quality of the material, or the quality of the creators ... we assembled these teams because we wanted the product to be above reproach.”
“Before Watchmen” will include seven new limited series, written and drawn by award-winning creators including Brian Azzarello, Darwyn Cooke, J. Michael Straczynski, and Joe Kubert.
The first issue of “Before Watchmen: Minutemen,” written and drawn by Cooke, is on sale now. The first issue of “Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre,” by Cooke and artist Amanda Conner, will be released Wednesday.