Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
“It seems a bit desperate to go after a book famous for its artistic integrity. It’s a finite series. Watchmen was said to actually provide an alternative to the superhero story as an endless soap opera. To turn that into just another superhero comic that goes on forever demonstrates exactly why I feel the way I do about the comics industry. It’s mostly about franchises.”
– Alan Moore, reiterating to Fast Company his objections to DC Comics’ sprawling Before Watchmen prequels
“One of the key characteristics of the comic book medium is that it is not brought to life by just one voice. These universes are developed and evolved by multiple creative voices, over multiple generations. The influx of new stories is essential to keeping the universes relevant, current, and alive. Watchmen is a cornerstone of both DC Comics’ publishing history and its future. As a publisher, we’d be remiss not to expand upon and explore these characters and their stories. We’re committed to being an industry leader, which means making bold creative moves.”
– DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee in the same article, offering an alternate view
Addressing one of the more frequent reactions to his involvement in DC Comics’ newly announced Before Watchmen project, J. Michael Straczynski has tackled the question, “How would you feel if Babylon 5 was being done without your permission?” His answer is, well, a little complicated.
The writer, who’s penning Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl for the sprawling prequel to the acclaimed 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, drew some criticism yesterday when he told Comic Book Resources, “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. Alan didn’t pass on being brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein, and he did a terrific job. He didn’t say ‘No, no, I can’t, that’s Len’s character.’ Nor should he have.”
That of course led more than a few people to ask how Straczynski, who created the 1990s space opera Babylon 5, would feel if someone else were to develop a sequel, or prequel — “Babylon 4″? — to the television series (a revival has been long hoped for by fans, but the writer denied rumors as recently as August that he’s in negotiations with Warner Bros.). To answer the question, which he characterizes as “How would you feel if Babylon 5 was being done without your permission?,” Straczynski took to his Facebook page last night, writing, “It’s a fair question, and it needs to be fairly answered … but it has to be an honest comparison, apples to apples, not apples to pomegranates.”
“My history with Watchmen goes way back. In 1986 I was working at Thunder Road Comics in Burlington, New Jersey, and I sold every issue of Watchmen as they came out. It was a pretty amazing time: The Dark Knight Returns was also shipping, so superhero comics were enjoying a banner year. The mullets, parachute pants, and New Coke made up for it, though. YIKES.
Several years back, I was one of the first artists to contribute designs to Zack Snyder’s film adaption of Watchmen. I mean, I only worked on the film for, like, eight minutes, but I cast a long shadow! Did you like Silk Spectre in latex? That was ALL ME. That’s right — I’m preening!
So, you see, I have some strange sort of orbital relationship to Watchmen. I feel pretty honored to be working it. I’m looking forward to drawing all these characters. Yes, Doctor Manhattan is an unusual choice to assign me to, but I’m assured that DC has a plan! Maybe they believe that, since I’m well-associated with drawing female anatomy, I’m qualified to handle blue penises. Wait … that doesn’t sound right …”
– Dr. Manhattan artist Adam Hughes, kind of addressing one of the first questions that arose when he was confirmed as one of the creators involved with DC Comics’ Before Watchmen prequels
Along with the official announcement of Before Watchmen, its long-rumored prequels to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, DC Comics trotted out several of the creators involved to talk about the legacy of the original work, their approach to the new project, what they expect from initial reactions — and, of course, Moore’s objections to the undertaking.
Here’s a selection of some of the more interesting quotes:
J. Michael Straczynski, who’s working with Adam Hughes on Dr. Manhattan, and Andy and Joe Kubert on Nite Owl: “Ever since Dan DiDio was handed the reins (along with Jim Lee) over at DC, he’s been making bold, innovative moves that might have scared the hell out of anyone else. At a time in the industry when big events tend to be ‘Okay, we had Team A fight Team B last year, so this year we’re gonna have Team B fight team C!’ Dan has chosen to revitalize lines, reinvent worlds and come at Watchmen head-on. It was, I think, about two years ago that he first mentioned that he was considering the idea, and he’s to be commended for fighting to make this happen.”
Brian Azzarello, who’s collaborating with Lee Bermejo on Rorschach, and J.G. Jones on Comedian: “I think the gut reaction is going to be, ‘Why?’ But then when the actual books come out, the answer will be, ‘Oh, that’s why.’ ”
As DC Comics’ Before Watchmen announcement rolls out from multiple news and entertainment outlets, so too do our first looks at covers for all seven prequels to the groundbreaking 1986 miniseries.
Okay, almost seven, as USA Today has only offered a detail of one of Lee Bermejo’s covers for Rorschach (at right), his four-issue miniseries with Luthor and Joker collaborator Brian Azzarello. To make up for it, though, there’s a cover by original Watchmen colorist John Higgins for a Crimson Corsair story by he and original Watchmen editor Len Wein.
We also have a Dr. Manhattan cover by Adam Hughes (courtesy of CBR), Minutemen by Darwyn Cooke (Hero Complex), Nite Owl by Andy Kubert and Joe Kubert (Heat Vision), Ozymandias by Jae Lee (Underwire), and Silk Spectre by Amanda Conner (Entertainment Weekly). UPDATE: Now, thanks to The New York Times, we also have one of J.G. Jones’ Comedian covers.
Check out the covers below. We’ll update if more, and in some cases larger, images become available.
UPDATE: DC Comics has released hi-res versions of each of the covers, which we’ve added below.
Following years of rumors, DC Comics announced this morning it’s revisiting the characters introduced by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in the seminal 1986 miniseries Watchmen with seven inter-connected prequels collectively titled … Before Watchmen. What’s more, the project now has the blessing of Gibbons, who as recently as last summer seemed resistant to the idea.
“The original series of Watchmen is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell,” the artist said in a statement. “However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire.”
Moore, however, isn’t as generous, describing the prequels as “completely shameless.” “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 told The New York Times.
The writer, who stopped working for DC in 1989 following disputes about Watchmen royalties and a proposed age-rating system, revealed in July 2010 that the publisher had at last offered to return the rights to his most famous creation, if he “would agree to some dopey prequels and sequels.”
“So I just told them that if they said that 10 years ago, when I asked them for that, then yeah it might have worked,” he said at the time. “But these days I don’t want Watchmen back. Certainly, I don’t want it back under those kinds of terms.”
Publishing | Jennifer de Guzman announced that, after 10 years, she has left her position as editor-in-chief of SLG Publishing: “My decade SLG was, I suspect, like no other decade anyone has spent working anywhere. I had great co-workers and got to work with fantastic creators, all of whom I will miss very much. (Though because this is comics and a community like no other, we will always stay in contact.)” [Possible Impossibilities]
Retailing | Chris Powell, current general manager and chief relationship officer for Texas-based comic chain Lone Star Comics, has accepted the newly created position of executive director of business development for Diamond Comic Distributors. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund board member will start his new position in March. [ICv2]
Before we jump into 2012, I have one last bit of business to take care of: toting up my 2011 predictions, and offering a set for the new year.
1. The Green Lantern movie. Last year I predicted that GL would be “more lucrative than Captain America, not as much as Thor. It ended up making $116 million domestically ($219 million worldwide), well behind Cap’s $176 million ($368M globally) and Thor’s $181 million ($449M globally). Also, it wasn’t as good. I liked it well enough (and from what I hear I may like the Blu-Ray version more), but apparently I was in the minority.
2. Superman and Wonder Woman after JMS. I just had questions for this entry: will Roberson and Barrows stay on Superman? (No.) Will Diana keep the jacket and pants? (No jacket, pants optional.) Finally, I asked “[w]ill sales improve once ‘Grounded’ ends?” Guess that depends on how you define “ends,” because “Grounded” closed out that Superman series; and the next issue of Superman was a New-52 No. 1 which sold almost 100,000 more copies than its predecessor. We may never know what might have happened to Superman without the New 52, but probably not that.
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Note: The artwork originally accompanying this post has been removed following a cease-and-desist letter from DC Entertainment’s legal affairs department.
Any doubts regarding the accuracy of reports about DC Comics’ long-rumored plans for Watchmen prequels may have eroded over the weekend with the emergence of character art by J.G. Jones and Joe Kubert and Andy Kubert.
Bleeding Cool characterizes the illustrations of Nite Owl and The Comedian as cover art for the projects, purportedly being assembled under the code name “Panic Room,” but considering the characters’ names are written on the pages, it seems more likely they’re concept designs.
The four prequels to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons are said to also involve Darwyn Cooke, J. Michael Straczynski, John Higgins and even Gibbons himself. Cooke, however, seemed to dismiss reports he was working on one of the miniseries, telling CBR News recently, “Ah, get out, man. That’s like three years old.”
For a while now, Bleeding Cool has repeatedly linked Eisner Award winner Darwyn Cooke with the hotly rumored Watchmen 2 from DC Comics, driving the world’s Twitterati into a Walter Kovacs-like frenzy.
But if that’s the case, Mr. Cooke is unaware of his connection.
When I spoke with the Canadian cartoonist in a recent interview about his artwork for an upcoming issue of James Robinson’s The Shade, I asked Cooke point blank if he would be working on Watchmen 2.
Cooke responded, succinctly, “Ah, get out, man. That’s like three years old.”
Now if DC Comics was planning Watchmen 2, the publisher would not want the sure-fire hit to be announced as a throwaway line during an interview for an unrelated series, so Cooke easily could have been smoking out CBR News with a red herring.
And his answer did lean toward the question being “old” news and not “no” news, so DC Comics may very well be prepping a sequel to the groundbreaking maxi-series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It just doesn’t appear that Cooke will be playing a role.
Which is too bad, because Cooke writing, drawing or even thinking about the characters from Watchmen, especially The Comedian, would qualify as about as pitch-perfect as you could get in terms of a creator getting on board a project that would certainly come with equal parts praise and ire, if and when it is ever announced.
Bleeding Cool contends it’s been “informed quite conclusively from a reliable source” at the publisher that the artist is among the A-list talent involved in the secretive project, which reportedly will use key characters from the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
Other previously mentioned creators include Darwyn Cooke, J. Michael Straczynski, J.G. Jones, John Higgins and even Gibbons himself.
Murmurs of DC’s desire for a Watchmen follow-up gained steam in 2010 after the departure of President Paul Levitz, believed to be the last in-house obstacle to using the Moore-Gibbons characters. The writer seemed to confirm as much last year when he revealed the publisher finally had offered to return the rights to the property — copyright and royalty issues form the roots of his legendary feud with DC — in exchange for a concession: that Moore “agree to some dopey prequels and sequels.” He refused.
Then-newly minted Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee said at the time that DC “would only revisit these iconic characters if the creative vision of any proposed new stories matched the quality set by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons nearly 25 years ago, and our first discussion on any of this would naturally be with the creators themselves.”
As recently as August, Gibbons addressed perennial rumors of a sequel and the possibility of the characters being transplanted into the DC Universe, telling Comic Book Resources, “It’s not something that I’d personally like to see happen. […] What I would say is, intrinsic to the whole idea of Watchmen is that they existed in a world that was the way it was because of their existence. And I think to transplant them into another world actually removes a huge part of what is the essence of Watchmen.”