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Before Watchmen: DC embarks on series of vigilante prequels

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Watchmen RewoundWriter Alan Moore is out. Illustrator Dave Gibbons wishes it well but doesn’t see the need. Nevertheless, DC Entertainment is launching seven linked miniseries this summer that each will center on a specific character from the seminal late-’80s series Watchmen.

Under the banner of Before Watchmen, the series will form a prequel to that alternate history tale of Cold War paranoia and imperfect human heroes.

“After 25 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,” said DC Entertainment co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee in a statement carried by The Associated Press.

More from Matt Moore’s AP report:

Moore is not participating, but Gibbons noted that their original series was “the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell. However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work.”

In that vein, the publisher said that the writers and artists bringing the miniseries about Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan, Nite Owl, Ozymandias, Silk Spectre, Comedian and the Minutemen include writers Len Wein, who edited the original series; Darwyn Cooke; Brian Azzarello and J. Michael Straczynski. Artists include Amanda Conner, Andy and Joe Kubert, Adam Hughes, Jae Lee, J.G. Jones, Lee Bermejo and Cooke.

Wein, who is writing “Ozymandias,” is also penning a two-page backup feature in each of the series dubbed “The Curse of the Crimson Corsair,” which is illustrated by John Higgins, who did the colors on the original “Watchmen” series.

“‘The Curse of the Crimson Corsair’ was actually my idea when we first started talking about doing these new stories,” Wein said. “Since, in the world of the Watchmen, DC stopped doing superhero comics early on and started a line of pirate comics instead, I thought it might be fun to see what one of the other books in the line looked like.”

That’s akin to the similar pirate comic that played out in the pages of “Watchmen” that Moore wrote called “Tales of the Black Freighter,'” Wein said. “‘Crimson Corsair’ introduces a new character to follow from the beginning of his adventure to its grisly end. I must say I’m having a lot of fun getting creeped out by what I’m writing here.”

Higgins said he and Wein have kept the sense of foreboding and darkness that permeated the “Black Freighter” story.

“What we are trying to achieve with the Crimson Corsair pages within the regular new series is to create a graphic ‘buffer’ and to use the darkness of the Crimson Corsair stories as a literary counterpoint to the regular book,” he said.

Looking ahead, Higgins said that even though the Watchmen has become a touchstone for comics and graphic novels, the new series can expand on its mythology.

“The challenge is to make the stories modern and relevant to 2012 and to show what can be done with respect and consideration for the source material that has inspired so many people over the years. By adding to the mythos and not to detract from it,” he said. “‘The Watchmen’ had such an influence on graphic storytelling since it first appeared and is a timeless classic. If we can create a new set of stories that can be enjoyed 25 years on, that would be an achievement and a reward in itself.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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