FAN EXPO: "Before Watchmen" Team on New Series, Controversy

DC Comics turned the spotlight on their highly controversial yet successful new series of comic book prequels, "Before Watchmen," during an "All Access" panel at Fan Expo Canada Saturday.

The crowd of fans attending were joined by writer Brian Azzarello ("Rorschach," "Comedian"), writer/artist Darwyn Cooke ("Minutemen," "Silk Spectre"), and writer/artist Amanda Conner ("Silk Spectre") as well as DC co-publisher Dan DiDio. The panel talked about a variety of topics that included an announcement of another title in the "Before Watchmen" line, an insight into what's to come in future issues, who would take over for the recently departed Joe Kubert on "Nite Owl" and other projects from the members of the panel.

The panel began with the announcement that DC will publish "Before Watchmen: Moloch," making it the eighth mini-series in the line. It will be two issues long and written by J. Michael Straczynski with art by Eduardo Risso. The first issue ships Nov. 7, and the second issue will be released on Dec. 26.

On a more somber note, DC also announced that Bill Sienkiewicz will take over for the legendary Joe Kubert on inks for "Before Watchmen: Nite Owl." Joe Kubert passed away Aug. 12.

After the brief announcements, Darwyn Cooke kicked off the discussion by talking about the future of "Before Watchmen: Minutemen."

"I have leaned really heavily in the first three issues on Nite Owl and Silk Spectre in order to establish a certain feeling with the readers, but with issue four we will be taking a turn towards the other characters," Cooke told the crowd.

Cooke then went on to tease the fans about a controversial event that happens in issues #5 and #6 of "Minutemen."

"In between issues #5 and #6 of this book, I am probably going to be in a missile silo, somewhere in the Arctic Circle, while I wait out what happens at the end of issue #5 and what happens in issue #6," Cooke declared to a roar of laughter from the audience. "Dan [DiDio] has made it pretty clear I should run for cover. We have a hell of a story here... we're going to provoke a lot of response with people."

The conversation then continued to Cooke's other "Before Watchmen" title, "Silk Spectre," which he is co-writing with Amanda Conner, who is also doing the art.

"We're going to see a lot more of [Laurie's] mom, Sally," Conner said. "It's a whole new relationship between Laurie and Sally."

"There is a great guest appearance in issue #3 that I don't think anyone is expecting. I think everyone will be thrilled by it," Cooke said.

Conner said that the "acid trip" Laurie experiences at the end of issue #2 will continue "on and on."

"That was really fun to draw, but challenging because I've never done acid in my entire life," Conner said.

"This girl has never done a drug in her life; this is how her mind works every day," Cooke said to laughter from the crowd. "By the third reading, I realized this is like having a conversation with Amanda, but it's also just like being on acid."

After the laughter subdued, the cover for issue #2 of "Rorschach" appeared, as it was Brian Azzarello's turn for the spotlight.

"I haven't written it yet," Azzarello said, to huge laughs from the audience.

Praising artist Lee Bermejo, he said, "I could have written it in Chinese and everybody would still love it."

After a few very brief words about his other "Before Watchmen" series, "Comedian," the cover of issue #13 of Azzarello's "Wonder Woman" appeared to applause from the audience.

"She goes on a quest in the desert." Azzarello said, describing exactly what was on the cover, which drew laughter from the audience. "She's following someone." He said, explaining the footprints in the sand. The crowd laughed and applauded.

The floor then opens to questions from the crowd.

One fan asked if there was any hesitation writing a property like "Watchmen," especially with it having such a loyal fan base and since creator Alan Moore visualized it as a self-contained story.

Azzarello steps in immediately, "Do they love it more than Batman? Because I've written Batman."

"Do they love it more than Spider-Man? Because I've written Spider-Man. Last time I checked, Steve Ditko's still alive," Cooke said. "There is a level of this I don't understand. It's a very important book. It's a brilliant book. I know I had a lot of hesitation going into the book, but it wasn't because I was afraid of working on it. It was because I didn't have a story. Once the story occurred to me, then I was very excited about the challenge. I wasn't going to get involved unless I had something that I was positive in my own heart was going to contribute something."

Keeping the questions in the "Watchmen" family, another fan asks if they used the original work at all when drawing these prequels.

"I stuck a lot of Easter eggs in Silk Spectre. If you comb through the book and then if you comb through the original book you'll notice stuff," Conner told the crowd. "I stuck in a lot of history Easter eggs, too. I keep putting things in for fun."

The "Watchmen" film was brought up by a curious fan in the audience wondering why they changed the continuity in the film by showing that Comedian never killed President John F. Kennedy.

"Uh, no. The movie isn't canon... I stepped on continuity there? Wait a minute, he changed the ending of the book. Which one do you want me to follow?" Azzarello asked the fan.

"Both," DiDio says sarcastically to laughs from the audience.

"I'm following the book," Conner said.

"I'll be honest, I did take one thing from the movie--Sally's hairstyle," Cooke said.

As a final note, Cooke finished off the discussion by praising the writers and artists of "Before Watchmen" that couldn't be at the panel that afternoon, to the applause of the capacity crowd.

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