For fans of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s classic Watchmen, the reaction to the news that DC Comics was planning a series of prequels titled Before Watchmen provoked shock, horror, derision, and then when the creative teams were announced… Well, a lot of more of the same, but also a fair amount of excitement, as well. At WonderCon, fans got their first chance to see some of the divisive project, and chat with the creators.
But here at C2E2 2012? The “DC All Access: Before Watchmen” was the big one, bringing most of the major creators – writers and artists – on stage to show off a look at the mini-series, as well as talk back to them about just what they thought about one of the biggest – if not the biggest – comic book event of 2012. Did the panel leave fans saying, “Hurm,” or… Well, we can’t really think of any positive catchphrases from Watchmen, but you get the drift.
Attending the panel were DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, Mark Chiarello, Will Dennis, writer Brian Azzarello, artist Lee Bermejo, artist Amanda Conner, artist Adam Hughes, writer J. Michael Straczynski, artist Joe Kubert, and writer Len Wein.
They started things off by plugging the “New Frontiersman” mock newspaper that ties into the project. It’s online, and will be adding new info and teases almost constantly until Before Watchmen launches
– “Every single person who was on the top of the wishlist, we got,” said DiDio talking about who they went after for the project. He also said that they started this because they tried other projects like Watchmen, but what fans – and retailers – actually wanted was more Watchmen.
– A skeptical fan then sat down with DC’s Bob Wayne to take a look at some advance art from Before Watchmen… He later said his skepticism had been put to rest, the art is just that good.
– Straczynski on Nite Owl: “This is almost the most mainstream book we’re doing, because it’s all about Nite Owl’s origin. It tells it from his early childhood, to becoming an adult and partnering Rorschach – and why that went badly.”
– DiDio on Minutemen: “You have Minutemen. You have Doctor Manhattan. And you have Ozymandias, and those cover a broad span of time.” He continued that Darwyn Cooke was perfect because his work on New Frontier meant he could bring that focus, and fill in the rest of that span.
– Straczynski on the whole project: “You have no idea what’s coming at you, this is going to be so frickin’ cool.”
– Joe Kubert, on working with his son on Nite Owl: “Working with Andy was both a blessing and… A little different. I’ve done some inking on other artist’s pencils before… When I’m inking, I have to have a little freedom to do what I think is important with the character. I look at what the penciller has done, and take it one step further. Andy brings the stuff in, and any variation, any line… I can see the creases on his face forming! But it’s been a great experience. It’s like the cherry on the whipped cream… How lucky can you get?”
– Len Wein on Ozymandias: “I was thrilled. He’s really the spine of the entire story… Without what he does, there wouldn’t be a Watchmen. Discovering the whys and wherefores, finding out why he did what he did… It was a pleasure.” He continued saying that Jae Lee’s art on the book was closer to “fine art.”
– Azzarello on Comedian: “If Ozymandias is spine of the story, Eddie’s the balls.” The panel added that the pages from the Comedian were the first that made people say, “Has legal seen these?”
– Adam Hughes, asked whether the dream factor for doing Dr. Manhattan was off the scale, said, “No, because I really wanted to draw Nite Owl,” to laughter from the audience. He thought he was going to get Silk Spectre, because of his track record, but had his fingers crossed for Nite Owl. “It’s good to sometimes to not follow your heart’s deepest desires, and put people on characters they don’t have a natural predilection for.”
– Amanda Conner on Silk Spectre: “It is completely different from a lot of the other stuff that everybody is doing. It’s a little bit like a romance comic… But with beatings. We are trying to keep a little bit of that tone, not make it too dark and angst ridden. I don’t know that I can make it blend seamlessly into the other book… But I’m trying my damnedest. I’m sticking with the nine panel grid. I figure the best I can do is the best work of my life, and throw in a lot of Easter Eggs.”
– Bermejo on Rorschach: “We’re going to do a grindhouse movie. There’s some porn theater stuff in there. It takes place in ’77, which was the year I was born, so it’s interesting to draw something that I have a connection to – but no real connection to at the same time.” Chiming in, DiDio said, “I was in those porn shops in ’77.” Bermejo jumped right back, saying, “I was conceived in a porn shop in ’77.”
– Wein on Crimson Corsair: “It touches the other stories… It doesn’t mirror them, it doesn’t tie in. But it tickles them.”
The panel then showed off Jim Lee’s variant cover to issue two of Silk Spectre, which will eventually tie together to form a police line-up poster of the whole team. And then they showed off the first – and only – black and white pages they’ll be showing off of Before Watchmen, which will be online at the official website later today.
…And then they showed off eight more pages, but at rapid speed so no one could take pictures, to squeals and moans from the crowd, who were unprepared.
Then, it was time for audience questions… Here’s a few highlights:
– Will the books all tie together? DiDio: “You can read each of the miniseries by themselves, and get the full story. There are bits and pieces that touch on other books, because they’re in the same universe. It’s the same thing we do with the main DC universe line of books.”
– Azzarello: “I don’t like writing the Comedian more than writing Rorschach… I like the Comedian better as a person. Writing it is a blast because… It’s just so ugly. You like that character? You’re going to get it, just the way you like it.”
– The next question was about any content restrictions, because the books are DC Universe, versus Vertigo. Hughes: “When I work, I jump around from page to page, go where the inspiration hits. I’ve had a lot of great pants days… Just in last week’s pages, I had to make a decision and… Draw it. I had to take the Hemmingway approach, and get really liquored up.”
– Asked whether his “favorite character, Richard Nixon,” would appear in the books, Azzarello said that yes, he would be in The Comedian series.
– Conner talked about how her relationship with her own mother played into Silk Spectre’s relationship with her mother, and how Conner used that to approach the project artistically.
– Straczynski, talking about Dr. Manhattan: “He’s the most powerful guy in the Watchmen universe, but he’s also the most powerless, because he’s seen all his decisions – they’ve already been made.”
– Hughes, on how Before Watchmen works as a prequel: “When you’re doing a story that’s a prequel, it’s less about answering questions than satisfying appetite. It’s going to satisfy your desire to see these characters that you’ve loved for twenty-five years. It won’t give away what happens in Watchmen, if you wanted to read them in order… It’s like a family reunion.”
– DiDio, throwing the gauntlet down about whether there would be digitally enabled takes on the BW books, like Marvel’s Infinite Comics: “We’re going to just tell good stories right now. The technology is where it is, and all those things are just window dressing. We don’t need any tricks to sell these books, these books are going to sell themselves.”
– DiDio, on when he’ll feel this is all ‘real’: “For me, it’s when I hold that first issue in my hand. We’ve been talking about it for so long, and working on it for so long. We’re ready for this, man.”
And that was it! Stay tuned to MTV Geek for some very cool Before Watchmen video features coming up soon, as well as all the news on the project as it breaks!