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Comics A.M. | Is a battle over Thanos building? Tim Marchman redux

Thanos

Creators | Following the appearance of the Infinity Gauntlet in Thor and the cameo by Thanos in The Avengers, Marvel appears poised to expand the cosmic elements of its cinematic universe with The Guardians of the Galaxy. While some fans eagerly await a movie announcement next week at Comic-Con International, Thanos creator Jim Starlin (who had to buy his own tickets to Thor and The Avengers) may be laying the groundwork for a legal challenge: Heidi MacDonald points out that Starlin has posted an early drawing of the Mad Titan on his Facebook page, writing, “This is probably one of the first concept drawings of Thanos I ever did, long before I started working at Marvel. Jack Kirby’s Metron is clearly the more dominant influence in this character’s look. Not Darkseid. Both D and T started off much smaller than they eventually became. This was one of the drawings I had in my portfolio when I was hired by Marvel. It was later inked by Rich Buckler.” [The Beat]

Comics | Tim Marchman, author of that much-discussed Wall Street Journal article, is at it again, this time interviewing Watchmen editor Len Wein about his work on Before Watchmen, and including the interventions of DC Comics Publicity Manager Pamela Mullin as part of the story. Between the embargo on the comic and Mullin doing her job, it sounds like the most interesting parts of the interview never made it into the final product. [The Daily Beast]

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Watch DiDio and Lee talk Before Watchmen at LA Times Festival of Books

Moderator Geoff Boucher, left, and DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee

Nerdist has posted video from the LA Times Festival of Books panel in April in which DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee discussed Before Watchmen, the hotly debated sequel to the influential 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The conversation was widely reported on at the time, but now you can watch it for yourself.

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Comics A.M. | Alan Moore’s Neonomicon challenged in South Carolina

Neonomicon

Comics | The Greenville County (South Carolina) Library has removed two copies of Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Neonomicon from its shelves after a mother filed an official challenge to the collection’s sexual content. Carrie Gaske said that although her 14-year-old daughter found the horror book in the adult section, she thought “it looked like a children’s comic,” and would be fine for her to check out. Daughter Jennifer soon discovered Neonomicon wasn’t the “murder mystery comic book” her mother believed it to be. “It was good at first,” she said. “Then it got nasty.” How “nasty”? “The more into I got the more shocked I was, I really had no idea this type of material was allowed at a public library,” Carrie Gaske said. “I feel that has the same content of Hustler or Playboy or things like that. Maybe even worse.”

The library allows children age 13 and older to check out books from the adult section with their parents’ permission. The library system’s two copies of Neonomicon have been removed from circulation while a committee reviews the content. [WSPA.com]

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Quote of the day | Dan DiDio on Before Watchmen’s ‘big selling point’

From "Before Watchmen: Minutemen" #1, by Darwyn Cooke

“The big selling point is that this material is true to the source material, but it gets the chance to examine all the aspects of Watchmen that made it great. We’re seeing the characters in a different light, but also a light that is reflective of the original material.  And we found ways to really push the stories in new directions but be true to the original concepts and conceits.

We’re bringing on some of the greatest writers in comics today, as well as the greatest artists, and together they’re creating a package that we feel could stand side by side with the original material.”

– DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, discussing the draw of Before Watchmen

Comics A.M. | Plan to replace New York’s Javits Center falls apart

Jacob K. Javits Center

Conventions | New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has mothballed plans for a giant convention center in Queens, leaving the unlovely, unloved, but well-situated Javits Center as the home of New York Comic-Con for the near future. [The New York Times, via The Beat]

Publishing | Alex Klein sees the “outing” of Green Lantern Alan Scott as a desperate move to boost sales by a publisher whose market share is dropping: “Switching up sexual orientation is a cunning way of compensating for flagging sales and aging characters. In the meantime, the industry is rebalancing: toward independent publishers, author ownership, and cross-platform digital tie-ins. As small studios sap talent from the giant conglomerates, comics are changing—and there’s a lot of money to be made in the process—just not in the comics themselves.” And he talks to The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and Image publisher Eric Stephenson about what they can do that the Big Two can’t. [The Daily Beast]

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Food or Comics? | Creator Owned Hero Sammiches

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

DMZ, Volume 12: The Five Nations of New York

Graeme McMillan

Here’s the thing: I really can’t decide if I want to spend part of my $15 this week on Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 (DC, $3.99). On the one hand, it’s a new Darwyn Cooke comic, and on almost every other occasion, I’d be all over that. But on the other … It’s Before Watchmen. And I don’t even mean that in the “I have moral qualms about DC’s ‘ownership’ and use of the characters” sense — although I do — but in the “I didn’t actually LIKE Watchmen that much, so why should I be interested in a prequel?” sense. Let’s table that one, then, and wait and see what happens in the store. Instead, I’ll grab Earth 2 #2 (DC, $2.99), the new Simon Spurrier book Extermination #1 (BOOM!, $1) and the weirdly-coming-out-a-month-before-the-movie Amazing Spider-Man Movie Adaptation #1 (Marvel, $2.99), if only because it’s been years since I’ve read a comic book adaptation of a movie and I want to support Marvel’s odd apparently-spoiling-itself plan.

If I had $30, I’d put Spidey back on the shelf and grab the final DMZ collection (Vol. 12: The Five Nations of New York, DC $14.99). I’ve been following the collections of Brian Wood’s series for awhile, and have been patiently awaiting this one since the series wrapped in single issues awhile back. Don’t spoil it for me, please.

Splurge-wise, I’d likely pick up the GI Joe, Vol. 2: Cobra Command, Part 1 TP (IDW, $17.99). The movie may have been put back, but I don’t care; IDW’s Joe comics are my brand of military machismo, and I dropped off the single issues in favor of collections as soon as this crossover started. Time to get caught back up and try not to think about poor Channing Tatum.

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The Before Watchmen controversy in a nutshell

Brian Truitt has a nice backgrounder on the Before Watchmen controversy at USA Today that allows both sides to state their case. If you’re just tuning in, on the eve of the sprawling prequel’s debut, this will save you a lot of time. The basic question: Should DC Comics create a prequel to Alan Moore’s Watchmen despite his opposition to the project?

DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio: “The strength of what comics are is building on other people’s legacies and enhancing them and making them even stronger properties in their own right.”

Former DC writer Chris Roberson: “Watchmen is a book, complete in one volume, with a beginning, middle and end. The continued attempts to recontextualize it as a ‘franchise’ or a ‘universe’ are, I think, part of the problem.”

Darwyn Cooke, one of the Before Watchmen creators, also observes that Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons does support the new books, and that his voice should not be ignored. (Cooke is also spotlighted in a separate article about the Before Watchmen: Minutemen miniseries, which debuts Wednesday.)

Still not heard from: Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum and J.M. Barrie on how they feel about Moore’s reuse of their characters in Lost Girls.

Before Watchmen TV commercial debuts

DC Comics corporate sibling Entertainment Weekly has unveiled what it calls a rough cut of the 30-second television spot set to premiere Tuesday for Before Watchmen, the sprawling — and much-discussed — prequel to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

According to Fast Company, the ad will air on IFC, BBC America and G4, as well as on social media, with an extended one-minute version appearing on the DC website. The first of the seven miniseries, Darwyn Cooke’s Before Watchmen: Minutemen, debuts in stores and online Wednesday, leaving a narrow window for the promotional blitz.

However, John Cunningham, DC’s vice president of marketing, says that was a conscious decision. “We realized that the books needed to be available as soon as people saw the ad,” he tells Fast Company.

The spot will air during such programs as The Onion News Network, Doctor Who and Attack of Show. You can watch the rough cut, and check out images from the commercial, below.

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Comics A.M. | Ailing artist Oliver Nome’s call for help

Wonder Woman, by Oliver Nome

Creators | Freelance artist Oliver Nome, who has worked for Wildstorm and Aspen but has no health insurance, is suffering from a brain tumor, and his dealer is selling off his art to help pay for the surgery. [Blog@Newsarama]

Publishing | John Jackson Miller looks at the shape of the comics market in 1995, before Diamond Comic Distributors had a virtual monopoly on distribution. [The Comichron]

Awards | The voting deadline for this year’s Eisner Awards is Monday. [Comic-Con International]

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Quotes of the day | J. Michael Straczynski vs. reviewer’s ‘cheap shot’

“The first issues of Before Watchmen will be published next month. Among the writers working on it is former He-Man scripter J. Michael Straczynski, who once penned a comic in which Spider-Man sold his marriage to the devil. (This is the rough equivalent of having Z-movie director Uwe Boll film a studio-funded prequel to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.)”

Tim Marchman, in a broadside to the superhero-comics industry that began as a nominal review for The Wall Street Journal of Leaping Tall Buildings. Straczynski wasn’t the only comics creator targeted, however: Marchman also took aim at Brian Michael Bendis, Joe Quesada, Grant Morrison and Dan DiDio, characterizing them as “the men most responsible for the failure of the big publishers to take advantage of the public’s obvious fascination with men in capes.”

“Your behavior was dickish. I became a better writer after He-Man. You will always be a dick.”

J. Michael Straczynski, issuing his “final word” in the ensuing Twitter exchange with Marchman that began with JMS confronting the reviewer on  “a cheap shot.” “You had to go back to 1984 to insult me? Really?” Straczynski wrote. “And [‘One More Day’] was Marvel’s decision not my call.”

Before Watchmen is ‘a love letter’ to Moore’s creation, Dan DiDio says

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 variant cover by Jim Lee

Just as the initial reviews of Before Watchmen begin to trickle in, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio takes to The Guardian to defend the sprawling prequel, which he calls “a love letter” to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and to respond to the writer’s scorching criticism of the project as “completely shameless.”

“Honestly I can understand why he might feel the way he does because this is a personal project to him,” DiDio tells the U.K. newspaper. “He has such a long and illustrious career and he’s been able to stand behind the body of work he’s created. But quite honestly the idea of something shameless is a little silly, primarily because I let the material speak for itself and the quality of the material speak for itself.”

He reiterates that DC won’t “shy away from the controversy on this – as a matter of fact we’re embracing it because we have belief in the strength of the product and stand behind it.”

DiDio also dismisses assertions by Moore that DC is “still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago,” saying that, “all the characters in all the universes and all that we do in comics, we’re constantly building on other people’s lores and legends. […] Realistically some of Alan’s strongest works at DC outside of Watchmen were built off of characters like Swamp Thing which was created by Len Wein, Superman, Batman, so many of our great characters he’s worked on and they helped build his career.”

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Retailer refuses to stock Before Watchmen

Why not?

At the MoCCA Festival panel on running a comics shop, the topic of Before Watchmen came up as part of a discussion of pull lists. Tucker Stone, manager of Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn, volunteered that his store wouldn’t be ordering the miniseries except for those customers who’ve already requested it.

ComiXology’s David Steinberger was in the audience and asked Stone to clarify why that was. “We’re gonna lose money,” Stone said. “We’ll probably lose customers. It was a decision that was made.”

I wasn’t there, and it’s difficult for me to interpret Stone’s additional comments without hearing his tone of voice or reading his body language, but based on the panel report, it sounds like this was a decision that wasn’t without controversy even among Bergen Street’s staff. Stone continued, “When I heard that decision, I said that’s a bad idea. That’s an explanation that I’ll have to give over and over again.” But, “as time has gone on, as I’ve seen online response to that project … This is just gross, and we don’t want to be part of this one. We’ll participate with the grossness they did to Kirby on the Avengers books, but this one …”

Heidi MacDonald attended the panel and reports that her tweets about it “got a vociferous response from pros and retailers alike who felt that Bergen Street was being irresponsible and leaving money on the table.”  That raises some interesting questions about the role of retailers in creators’ rights issues. Should shop owners serve their own sense of right and wrong (not that all retailers agree about what that looks like in this situation) or does that not matter compared to the mandate to serve the customer? I don’t feel qualified to cast judgment either way until I have a comics shop and a family and employees that depend on how I run it, but it’s fascinating to think about.

Comics shops uniquely personify the struggle many comics fans are experiencing as they think about these things. Which matters more: creators’ rights or my right to read what I want?

(John Douglas’ Watchmen Too: The Squid cover from Relaunched!.)

Comics A.M. | Chris Roberson speaks on his split with DC Comics

Chris Roberson

Creators | iZombie writer Chris Roberson discusses his recent public announcement that he would no longer accept work from DC Comics and his subsequent dismissal from his last writing job for the publisher. “Well, this has been building over the last few months, and mostly had to do with what I saw DC and Time Warner doing in regards to creator relations. I think the first thing — you have to understand that when I first started working for DC in 2008, the Siegels had just recaptured half of the copyright for Action Comics #1 and I felt very good about that. That seemed like a very positive step. And then over the course of the last few months there has been the counter-suit against the Siegels’ lawyer, Marc Toberoff, and I was less sanguine about that, and starting to get a little itchy about it, and then there were just a few general things about the way that it seemed that DC regards creators now that are working for them — and I can talk about that more in detail — but the real kind of proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the announcement at the beginning of February of Before Watchmen, which I just thought was unconscionable. And so I had already signed a contract by that point to do six more issues of iZombie, of which three of them had been turned in, and so I just made the decision to go ahead and turn in the remaining three, not wanting to jeopardize the livelihood of my collaborators Mike and Laura Allred. But once I turned in the last one, even though I had other work lined up, I would have to at least — if only for my own peace of mind — let people know that I wasn’t happy with it.” [The Comics Journal]

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Comics A.M. | Archie launches web store; Footnotes in Gaza honored

Archie & Friends: Spring Has Sprung!

Digital comics | Archie Comics becomes the latest comics publisher to get a web-based store, allowing readers to purchase digital comics on basically any device that runs HTML5. While Marvel and DC have web stores built on the comiXology platform, this is the first time their competitor iVerse has gone outside the iOS. [Comics Alliance]

Awards | Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza is the winner of this year’s Oregon Book Award in the Graphic Literature category. [OregonLive.com]

Digital comics | Scott Kurtz, who knows a thing or two about digital comics, ponders the implications of Mark Waid’s aggressive move toward the digital realm: “This is something I’ve been warning my friends in webcomics about for a while now. That eventually, someone famous from the comic book industry would figure out that they should try what we’ve been doing for the last fifteen years or so, and would follow suit. All it would take is one or two high-profile creators succeeding at being ‘webcomicers’ and suddenly everyone would jump over. And the term ‘webcomic’ will finally die and just become ‘comic.'” [PvP]

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Best look yet at Before Watchmen pages, character designs

Ozymandias character design by Jae Lee

While fans and retailers at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo were given a first glimpse at interior art for DC Comics’ sprawling Watchmen prequels, BuzzFeed now provides the best look yet at pages and character designs from Before Watchmen in the form of photos of a binder at the DC offices. Among the images are interiors from Rorschach, by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, Silk Spectre, by Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner, Ozymandius, by Len Wein and Jae Lee, and Curse of the Crimson Corsair, by Wein and John Higgins. There are also character designs by Bermejo, Conner, Cooke, Higgins, Andy and Joe Kubert, and Lee.

Before Watchmen debuts in June.

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