What Is 'Before Watchmen' About? We've Got a Few Ideas...

We speculated about it weeks ago, and today DC Comics confirmed: they’re going ahead with a prequel to Watchmen. You can read all of the details at our post there – and we’ll reiterate a few of them along the way – but the biggest question is, “What DOES happen before Watchmen?”

Yes, most of the Internet discussion has focused on whether it’s right to tackle a sequel to what’s arguably the most revered comic book of all time, interspersed with jokes, both pointed and not. But not a lot of the discussers have spent time asking what the series will be about. So don’t worry, we’ve got you covered there. Here’s a breakdown of what we think each series may be about… And why we’re excited:

RORSCHACH (4 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Lee Bermejo

Azzarello and Bermejo have collaborated twice before, both times focusing on alternate looks at DCU villains. Both Joker and Luthor - the two previous books - were critically acclaimed best-sellers which didn’t hesitate to go to some very, very dark places… Which is why we’re eager to see what the team will do with one of Watchmen’s most complicated characters. There’s actually a few periods of Walter Kovacs’ life they can focus on, depending on how wide a swathe they’re going for… Will we get to see l’il Rorschach growing up in an abusive home? Or more on his adventures teaming up with Nite Owl, before he went sort of nuts? My guess is we’ll get a bit of character biography, possibly almost like a “Rorschach: Year One,” as that will give Bermejo the most settings to draw, and Azzarello the greatest breadth to plum Kovacs’ psychology… Their strong points.

MINUTEMEN (6 issues) – Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke

I don’t know about you, but this was the series that made me squeal with delight when I read the announcement. It was what sold me on the idea of Watchmen prequels back when I posited this was what we might be getting in the Op-Ed posted previously; and it’s the most natural fit of any of these books. Darwyn Cooke, in his element drawing the Silver Age characters going on a grand adventure? Who wouldn’t want that? Like his seminal DC: The New Frontier, we’re sure that Cooke will pepper the series with subtext involving nuclear paranoia, and foreshadowing for the eventual break-up of the group (which was the precursor to the Watchmen)… But at its heart, this will be exciting comics in an old school style.

Darwyn Cooke teases Watchmen at the 2011 HeroesCon

COMEDIAN (6 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: J.G. Jones

Given the cover, and the team working on this? No doubt in our minds: this series is going to be f***ed up. Though we might be more into reading a series set in Vietnam, that ground was well covered in the original Watchmen (seriously, I kind of can’t believe we’re going to have to clarify that now). If Rorschach will be Azzarello’s character study, this will be his chance to let loose, showing Edward Blake at the height of his depravity. Will we get any redeeming characteristics, given The Comedian is one of the most unforgiving and reviled characters in the comics medium? Probably… Though hopefully that won’t be offset by a lot of rape. Because Azzarello knows better.

DR. MANHATTAN (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artist: Adam Hughes

Clearly, Adam Hughes is not on this series for his excellent facility with drawing blue penises. Nope, this is – as the cover shows – a character study featuring Doc Manny and Silk Spectre, fleshing out more about their relationship and adventures together. JMS has often returned to the idea of superhero as god – sometimes literally – and what makes them, at the same time, unerringly human. It will be interesting to see how much he brings to Dr. Manhattan, given his decidedly non-human portrayal in Watchmen.

NITE OWL (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artists: Andy and Joe Kubert

Like how Azzarello is getting to play with both sides of his comfort zone, so we’re getting the alternate JMS here. Yes, he likes god-like beings, but he also likes humans who try to become gods, and fail… Like Mr. Nite Owl here. We’re clearly focusing on Nite Owl 2, given the cover; not the original Nite Owl. And I imagine that we’ll get a Batman or Blue Beetle style mystery that he’ll try to solve in the style of his predecessor, while never quite living up to his legacy. Fingers crossed we don’t have to suffer through some sort of Lee Adama-esque weight gain thing, to connect with the main series. We shall see.

OZYMANDIAS (6 issues) – Writer: Len Wein. Artist: Jae Lee

Of all the series being released, this is the one that’s probably the greatest enigma, just like its main character. Given that Len Wein was Editor on Watchmen, was he privy to scenes that got cut? Or ideas left on Alan Moore’s floor that would fill in gaps of time in the original series? Or will this be something more focused than that? Unlike many of the other characters, the most interesting part about Ozymandias is probably how he moved from tights to the boardroom, and developed his plan to “save” the world. More than any of the other series, I expect this will be a direct prequel, and will end where Watchmen began.

SILK SPECTRE (4 issues) – Writer: Darwyn Cooke. Artist: Amanda Conner

Another gangbusters pairing, and easily our second most anticipated book. If the cover is anything to go by, this will be straight up character biography, showing how Silk Spectre II grew up in her mother’s shadow, and how their complicated relationship developed over the years. Given that Amanda Conner is on art (a perfect fit if ever there was one), I’m guessing we won’t have a lot of standing around… Maybe a “modern” adventure contrasting with flashbacks to Laurie growing up?

CURSE OF THE CRIMSON CORSAIR (2 page back-up) - Writer: Len Wein. Artist: John Higgins

This back-up that’s running through all the Watchmen titles is something that probably gave us the most pause, particular as its forbear – Tales of The Black Freighter – is not so much a comic within a comic, as a metaphorical counterpoint to the story of Watchmen. How can a two-page pirate story focusing on a new character be a counter-point to every single series here, unless there’s some unifying story going on? Unless there is, which we doubt. No, it’s actually just another pirate story, as Wein told The Washington Post. The idea is to counterpoint the lightness of the new series with a darker story that segues, tone-wise, into Watchmen. Will we see specific parallels between Crimson Corsair, and the other books? Maybe, maybe not. Like Black Freighter, we’ll probably just have to look back through it after the whole Event is done.

So there’s your rundown… What do you think, comics fans? What are your speculations for Before Watchmen, and where do you think the stories will go? Let us know in the comments, and of course, check back on MTV Geek for plenty more Watchmen news as it breaks.

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