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DC Turns Back the Clock ‘Before Watchmen’

The Watchmen are coming back! DC Comics will release six prequel miniseries under the banner, “Before Watchmen,” to showcase new adventures featuring Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan, and Silk Spectre as they fight crime. A back up feature, the Crimson Corsair, will also be included in each issue.

For those unfamiliar with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s ground-breaking miniseries, “Watchmen” took place during 1985 in an alternate world where America won the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon is in his third term as President.

The story begins with the death of the Comedian and the proceeding investigation by the deadly yet insightful Rorschach. While he searches for clues and talks with other heroes to solve the death of the Comedian, the reader gets a look into the lives of these characters and a sense of how vigilantes changed the course of history starting in the 1920’s. Along the way, the world is holding its breath as the U.S. and Russia head for nuclear war.

“Watchmen” was a breakthrough not only for its rich complex storytelling but by presenting a realistic, gritty story with fallible characters.

To tell these new adventures, DC Comics has collected some stellar creative teams to further develop the world of “Watchmen.”

According to DC Comics’ blog, “The Source,” writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Berjemo are working on “Rorschach” and Azzarello is also collaborating with artist J.G. Jones on “The Comedian.”

J. Michael Straczynski is writing two miniseries: first is “Dr. Manhattan” with Adam Hughes supplying art, and second is “Nite Owl,” featuring art by Andy and Adam Kubert.

Former “Watchmen” editor, Len Wein will write “Ozymandias” with Jae Lee illustrating. Wein will also be witing the back-up story, “Curse of the Crimson Corsair,” with original “Watchmen” colorist John Higgins.

Writer/artist Darwyn Cooke is pulling double-duties on “Minutemen” as well as writing “Silk Spectre” with Amanda Conner handling the art.

Following these miniseries, DC will also present “Before Watchmen: Epilogue” that includes another “Crimson Corsair” story.

On “The Source,” Dan Didio and Jim Lee, DC Entertainment Co-Publishers gave their reasoning for exapnding upon “Watchmen.” They said, “It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant… After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original.”

Although original series artist, Gibbons, told “The Source,” “I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work,” Moore is less than thrilled.

This wouldn’t be the first time Moore was annoyed about a new “Watchmen” project. When Watchmen, directed by Zack Snyder, came out, he asked his name not be listed in a creator credit.

While talking to the New York Times about “Before Watchmen,” Moore said, “I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago.” He continued to tell the Times that while he would get money from this endeavor having been the series writer, “I don’t want money…What I want is for this not to happen.”

In regards to Moore’s statement, writers and artists listed as “Before Watchmen” creative teams have raised their voices to the issue to justify being able to tell new stories of his creations like Rorschach, the Minutemen, and Nite Owl.

In an interview with about his Dr. Manhattan miniseries, Straczynski explained his reason for accepting this job and why creators should be allowed to explore “Watchmen.” “A lot of folks feel that these characters shouldn’t be touched by anyone other than Alan, and while that’s absolutely understandable on an emotional level, it’s deeply flawed on a logical level. Based on durability and recognition, one could make the argument that Superman is the greatest comics character ever created. But neither Alan nor anyone else has ever suggested that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should ever be allowed to write Superman.”

What’s really interesting about the whole “Before Watchmen” endeavor is that it isn’t the first time people have attempted to broaden this universe.

Watchmen: The End is Nigh was a prequel video game to the film adaptation featuring the superhero duo, Rorschach and Nite Owl, fighting crime on the streets of New York City.

Writing about the “Watchmen” prequels, Brett White, of, said, “‘Watchmen’ is revered because it’s ‘Watchmen,’ a name that has become synonymous with ‘game-changing genius.’ But I think the comic book community also viewed ‘Watchmen’ as some sort of marathon to see how long an insanely popular series could go without a new installment, and this news means the streak is over.”

As the release dates for these books arrive, there is a sense of excitement and uncertainty to “Before Watchmen.” I know I’ll be watching the comic book racks to see how this project plays out.