From Newsarama, we have the official announcement of DC's upcoming Before Watchmen event, with 7 prequels to the seminal superhero epic. The titles are:
Rorschach (4 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Lee Bermejo
Minutemen (6 issues) – Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Comedian (6 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: J.G. Jones
Dr. Manhattan (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artist: Adam Hughes
Nite Owl (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artists: Andy and Joe Kubert
Ozymandias (6 issues) – Writer: Len Wein. Artist: Jae Lee
Silk Spectre (4 issues) – Writer: Darwyn Cooke. Artist: Amanda Conner
For reference, I have only read Watchmen once, and that was in 2009 (yes, it was before the movie came out!). So while I enjoyed the story I do not have the history with it that some of you may have.
First off, I have to say that if DC is going to do any more Watchmen material, going the route of a prequel is probably the smartest decision you could make while still using the known Watchmen characters. A sequel offers too many options of where you can go, and, frankly, considering the ending of Watchmen itself, it would be difficult to craft some sort of coherent storyline in that sort of setting. with a prequel, you are in the same "box" which George Lucas was in with the Prequel Trilogy; you have to wind up at the Start/Finish line (so to speak). Whether this allows the creators enough leeway to tell compelling stories or not, I don't know. We'll have to wait and see the final products to be able to judge that.
As for said products, they're a wide assortment to my eye. Azzarello seems like a good match for Rorschach, and pairing him with his Joker GN collaborator Lee Bermejo is a sound play. Azz should handle the grit and violence quite well. Similarly, he is a good draw for The Comedian. I can see JG Jones bringing the same sort of pulp feel to that title as he did to DC's Doc Savage. I think that works.
Amanda Conner is a strange choice to my mind ONLY because of how visually different her stuff is that Dave Gibbons; that having been said, I can't wait to see what her take on Silk Spectre looks like. Not sure about Darwyn Cooke handling the writing chores on that one, though. Not who I would have thought DC would have pegged.
On the other hand, Cooke on Minutemen has me intrigued. I'm imagining that thematically and visually this will be very close to New Frontier, as, I am sure, DC wants me and my fellow fanboys to imagine. There could be some real meat to that series.
The most compelling of all of these is the Len Wein/Jae Lee team on Ozymandias. I found Ozy to be the most compelling of these characters when I read the series just from his duplicitous nature and supreme self-confidence. Wein still has the chops to write in today's market and I am eager to see his take on such a flawed character. And putting Jae Lee on art is a choice which has me anticipating seeing preview pages. Lee's work is so stylized and unique, so I definitely want to see how that translates to Ozy. (Had you told me that Lee was working on one of these series but not told me which one, my guess would have been Rorschach -- the almost graffiti like style in his work would be a good fit for him.)
The two books by JMS don't hold much interest for me, unfortunately. Nite Owl drawn by the Kuberts should look pretty amazing -- I'm envisioning Nite Owl truly as a Batman allegory -- but Adam Hughes on Dr. Manhattan is less clear. I have never seen him do much work on the male form -- much less the nude blue male form -- so I don't know what to expect. JMS is hit or miss with me, so I am hesitant no matter who the artist.
In any event I think it is pretty clear that DC is putting a lot of effort and talent behind these series and wants them to be a big hit. One of the most inane (comic book related) conspiracy theories I had read was that DC wanted to make more Watchmen material and have it be poor to somehow "get back" at Alan Moore. Don't ask because I haven't figured it out myself.
So, what are YOUR thoughts on Before Watchmen?