The Biggest BEFORE WATCHMEN Surprises

<i>by Vaneta Rogers, Newsarama Contributor and <a href=http://twitter.com/LucasSiegel>Lucas Siegel, Newsarama Editor</a></i> <p>This week begins the anticipated launch of DC's <b>Before Watchmen</b> event, with the first issue of <i>Minutemen</i> arriving in comic stores on June 6th. While there are still some fans still outraged that the publisher is releasing a prequel to Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore's legendary story, most comic readers are anxiously anticipating the experience of reading <b>Before Watchmen</b> over the next few months. <p>Of course, the news of a Watchmen prequel didn't come as a complete surprise to most comic book fans -- with rumors and leaks hitting the Internet for months before the announcement. But the seven miniseries titled <b>Before Watchmen</b> do have a few things that raised our eyebrows. Some surprises are good, and some are bad, but they've definitely got people talking. <p>With the first crop of books now solicited to start this month, we've compiled what we think are the Top 10 Surprises in <i>Before Watchmen</i>. Click "start here" in the upper-left corner to begin the countdown. <p>And for further reading: <p><li> <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/the-q-creators-on-before-watchmen-120201.html>THE Q: Comics Creators On WATCHMEN 2 - Yes or NO?</a> <br><li> <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/dc-execs-talk-before-watchmen-sales-trinity-war.html>DC VP's Talks BEFORE WATCHMEN Sales, TRINITY WAR</a> <br><li> <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/before-watchmen-charlton-heroes.html>BEFORE WATCHMEN? Bring Back CHARLTON Heroes Instead!</a> <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!

When DC decided to revisit Watchmen, they skipped the "visit" part and just moved in. <p>All told, there will be eight different stories that will spin off the original <b>Watchmen</b> series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons: <p>- <i>Rorschach</i> (four issues) by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo <br>- <i>Minutemen</i> (six issues) by writer/artist Darwyn Cooke <br>- <i>Comedian</i> (six issues) by Azzarello and J.G. Jones <br>- <i>Dr. Manhattan</i> (four issues) by J. Michael Straczynski and Adam Hughes <br>- <i>Nite Owl</i> (four issues) by J. Michael Straczynski and Andy and Joe Kubert <br>- <i>Ozymandias</i> (six issues) by Len Wein and Jae Lee <br>- <i>Silk Spectre</i> (four issues) by Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner <br>- <i>Curse of the Crimson Corsair</i> (back-up stories) by Len Wein and John Higgins <p>This is clearly <i>not</i> a case of a company dipping its toe into the water to see what reaction will be. This is a major commitment of talent and resources to a weekly event that will last several months. Of course, the reason for that might be...

SHOW ME THE MONEY

Among the reactions to DC's <b>Before Watchmen</b> mega-event comes a common complaint from fans: It's all about the money. <p>Even Moore has made it clear, in a <a href=http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/01/books/dc-comics-plans-prequels-to-watchmen-series.html?_r=1><i>New York Times</i></a> article: "I don't want money. What I want is for this not to happen." <p>Of course, fans (and Moore) tend to forget that DC Entertainment <i>does</i> want money. The company in the <i>business</i> of making money, which has been tough lately with sales of comic books shrinking. <p>Yet when Newsarama added up the cost of a reader actually <i>buying</i> this <b>Before Watchmen</b> series, the result was surprising. <p>At $3.99 an issue, the 35 chapters of <b>Before Watchmen</b> will cost <i>$139.65</i> to read. <p>Charging 140 bucks to read the prequel is surprising, considering the <a href=http://www.amazon.com/Watchmen-Alan-Moore/dp/0930289234>original <b>Watchmen</b> is selling on Amazon</a> for only $12.75. <p>Then again, Amazon is just about the only national bookstore that carries <b>Watchmen</b>, since DC made others mad enough that <a href=http://blog.newsarama.com/2011/10/12/another-bookstore-chain-pulls-dc-books/>they pulled the book from the shelves</a>.

DAVE GIBBONS' 'SUPPORT'

While we've been hearing for a while that the artist on the original <b>Watchmen</b> is OK with a prequel, the statement DC included from Gibbons in the original announcement sounded a bit tempered: <p>"The original series of <b>Watchmen</b> is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell," he said. "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." <p>While Gibbons is obviously putting his stamp of approval on the series as an "homage," he made it clear that <i>he</i> thought the <b>Watchmen</b> story was done. And we all know how Moore feels. <p>Yet his support however unenthusiastic it may sound isn't the most surprising thing about the quote. What's most surprising is that DC thought they had to include it, and opted to do so even though it sounds so reluctant.

THE TALENT

Wow, talk about talent. <p>If DC wanted to make the most cynical and crotchety comic book critics happy about this prequel,", they couldn't have picked a better list of creators. <p>Putting artists J.G. Jones, Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner and Adam Hughes on these books make the initiative like a who's who of critical darlings. Some of them we haven't seen on interior art for years, making their new output all the more enticing. <p>Add in a few heavy hitters like J. Michael Straczynski, comic book legends like the Kuberts, people attached to the original like Len Wein, and you've got a comic event that would sell even if it <i>didn't</i> have anything to do with the bestselling graphic novel of all time. <p>Plus, most of these names really fit the subject. Folks like Azzarello and Cooke known for their pulp and/or work set in the Golden Age, so revisiting a "timeless classic" makes sense. And then there's...

JAE LEE AT DC

The comic book fanbase is dominated by "Marvel vs. DC" arguments. So it's always a plus to have a star from "across the street" on a title if you're trying to attract readers from "over there." <p>Jae Lee is one of those imported stars, and probably the most surprising name on the list. While he did some work at DC, his fans have flocked to his art in droves since he's been working at Marvel on series like <i>Dark Tower</i> and <i>Inhumans</i>. And his name has until now been associated with Marvel heroes. <p>Now he's got Ozymandias on his resum&#233;.

THE TALENT (AGAIN)

OK, we already mentioned the the talent, but this time around our surprise is not a fanboy <i>rave</i> but instead, a healthy dose of fanboy <i>rage</i>. <p>These names aren't exactly the type of quick artists you typically see on monthly series. At the risk of being rude, wasn't Adam Hughes <i>still</i> working on <i>All-Star Wonder Woman</i>, a series so late that it's been all but forgotten? And although their health problems make delays of the past understandable, it's tough to forget that the last series J. Michael Straczynski touched were plagued by delays and J.G. Jones was unable to finish <i>Final Crisis</i>. Both have projects scheduled to start in June. <p>And as long as we're mentioning JMS and his most recent comics...

JMS JUST QUIT, DIDN'T HE?

It's surprising to see J. Michael Straczynski doing a serialized comic one being advertised as part of a weekly series because his departure from "short" comics was so public. On Nov. 12, 2010, Straczynski stunned the comic book world by abruptly quitting two high-profile comics in <i>mid-story</i> that he had just revamped under major media attention: <i>Superman</i> and <i>Wonder Woman</i>. <p>And the project he allegedly quit to write, <i>Earth One: Superman 2</i>, hasn't even been released yet. It doesn't come out until the fall <i>after</i> the reported June start of <b>Before Watchmen</b>. <p>To be fair, Straczynski did say that writing a miniseries is a better fit for him than ongoings. And he <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/J-Michael-Straczynski-leaving-montly-comics-101112.html>told Newsarama</a> that he was taking a "one-to-five year sabbatical" from monthly comics. <p>It's technically been more than a year. But just barely. <p>As one Newsarama staffer said, "He must have gotten <i>major</i> carte blanche on these stories to lure him over." And the statement from JMS to <a href=http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=36726>CBR</a> that he needed "elbow room" to create <i>Dr. Manhattan</i> and "something new has to be created" indicates he's apparently getting the creative freedom he needs.

WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG?

Whether you love the decision or hate it, the fact that it took DC a whopping 25 years to make this move is really surprising, especially in an industry that thrives on the long-term sustainability of licensed properties. <p>Even those in the camp of "leave it in the past" might have been less vehement in their protests had the sequel come earlier. After all, we've started to get used to <b>Watchmen</b> being left alone. <p>And those who <i>like</i> this announcement would presumably have liked it even more if 2012 was already seeing a seventh or eighth follow-up to <b>Watchmen</b>.

'NO EVENTS PLANNED'

When Dan DiDio <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/sdcc-2011-dc-new-52-sunday-110724.html>told a huge audience at Comic Con International in San Diego</a> in July 2011 that DC had "no events planned for the foreseeable future," the result was a <i>huge</i> round of applause from fans. After all, he had just said that DC's plans reached out five years. <p>Little did those happy fans in San Diego know that DC would announce its next summer event only six months later, albeit one outside its mainline "New 52" continuity. <p>And it's not just an event, mind you. DC's Twitter account <a href=https://twitter.com/#!/DCComics/status/164668756084277249>said at the time of the initial announcement</a> that it was a "<i>massive</i> event coming this summer." <p>Considering it was only July when DC hadn't planned any events, it's surprising to find out it's already got a "massive" one in place.

WATCHMEN HAS A <I>PREQUEL</I>?!

OK, we know the introduction to this list said the announcement wasn't a surprise, and the truth is that we all kind of knew it was coming. But come on... <p><i>Watchmen has a prequel</i>. <p>We may have been hearing about the rumor of this project for months and even talked about its possibility for years but now that it's official and solicited to start in June, it feels strange and still surprising as hell. <p>In the end, the fact that it even exists is still the biggest surprise.

The Biggest BEFORE WATCHMEN Surprises

Date: 01 February 2012 Time: 07:44 PM ET