CBR's WonderCon 2012 coverage continues as The DC Comics: All Access Special Edition panel at WonderCon in Anaheim, California brought fans together with DC Comics bigwigs and creators in order to talk about the publisher's plans for "Before Watchmen" and answer questions from the audience.
Boasting DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio, Editor Will Dennis, "Before Watchmen: Nite Owl" and "Dr. Manhattan" writer J. Michael Straczynski, DC Art Director Mark Chiarello and "Ozymandias" writer Len Wein, the panel began with the panelists joking about running over time as DC fans streamed into the convention room floor.
"For those of you just joining us, that concludes our 'Before Watchmen' panel," joked moderator Bob Wayne as the audience and panelists laughed.
Officially beginning, Wayne turned to Didio to ask the question on everyone's mind: why do "Before Watchmen?"
"We've been getting asked this question a lot," said Didio, explaining that when the "Watchmen" film came out the original graphic novel flew off the shelves.
"The reality is people really wanted to read more 'Watchmen,'" said Didio. "We knew there were a lot of people in place who were worried about the quality of the material... when you see the level of work and heart going into it you know it's something special."
"You will be as excited with this material as you were with the original when it first came out," added Didio.
Speaking about the behind the scenes action to make this happen, Didio said they knew there would be a "firestorm" about the prequel, and thus gathered creators who were willing to take on the challenge of working on the controversial books.
Showing the covers to "Minutemen" and "Nite Owl" #1, Straczynski spoke about his books, saying he enjoyed contrasting the powerful Dr. Manhattan to the physically unprepossessing Nite Owl.
"There's not a lot of interaction between the books, so I said, 'Given that these are all different views, what is our unifying theme? What are we trying to say with these books?'" said Straczynski, who added he thought the books represented different types of truth such as telling others the truth and telling yourself the truth.
Chiarello then showed a variant cover for "Nite Owl" done by Jim Lee, and revealed all the books will have variant covers.
"I've been reading comics since I could wobble, and the art Jae Lee is doing on 'Ozymandias' is the best art period," Straczynski told Wein, who agreed wholeheartedly.
"I'm having more fun on this than I've had in decades," said Wein, who served as the original editor on "Watchmen."
Didio and Wein then told the audience the very first meeting the creative teams had they were all flipping through copies of the original graphic novel, "Like Bible class!" laughed Didio.
Wayne then brought up the first cover to the "Comedian" and "Dr. Manhattan" comics as Straczynski told fans he had no trepidation about jumping onboard the prequels.
"The real challenge for me in 'Dr. Manhattan' was I want to write a quantum science fiction story while at the same time bring in free choice while at the same time bringing in his childhood, and the math nearly killed me," said Straczynski.
"When I got Joe's first script for it, I remember emailing him and saying, about notes and corrections, I have absolutely nothing to say," Chiarello said. "When these books come out I guarantee you will be saying this is crazy stuff!"
Saying that they read through the original material over and over again, Straczynski told audiences there were many tidbits and things brought up in the original graphic novel that he wanted to expand on, such as the Twilight Lady picture in Nite Owl's closet.
"I quietly dubbed the group the 'Dirty Dozen,'" Didio joked about the creative teams behind all the "Before Watchmen" books as Dennis grinned. Dennis told the audience he realized at one point they had assembled the most "cantankerous, individual" group of talents at DC, but their material would blow the audience away.
Dennis then elaborated on his involvement as the lead editor on "Comedian" and "Rorschach," and that he was excited to work with Brian Azzarello on the "Rorschach" title.
Wein told the audience that while he had his "arguments with Alan [Moore] way back when," he was thrilled to work with everyone on the new prequels.
Displaying art from the "Crimson Corsair" backups, also written by Wein, the writer praised artist John Higgins' work on the comic.
"Half of what I'm doing comes from John's suggestions because he's so vigorously involved," said Wein. He said "Corsair" was one of the entirely new stories in "Before Watchmen."
DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee then joined the stage to talk about his plans for the "Before Watchmen" variant covers.
"The idea was to do one character per cover, and it's a police line-up so they're all against the height chart," Lee said of his variant covers. "They're vigilantes in a lot of respect to it made sense to do the line up."
"What do you guys think?" Wayne asked the audience as the crowd applauded and then lined up to ask the panelists questions about "Before Watchmen."
The very first audience member to the microphone said his favorite characters were the "Minutemen" and wanted to know if there were plans to do an ongoing "Minutemen" series after the prequels.
"We're waiting to see how it works, how fans react, and then we'll go from there," said Didio. Saying each book is about 22 to 24 pages with a two-page "Crimson Corsair" story in it. Didio told fans the books will be a little bigger than fans are used to.
A woman in a Batgirl costume asked if DC planned to bring the same enthusiasm for "Before Watchmen" to creating more diverse characters and Lee told her that they hoped to do just that.
The next fan wanted to know if "Watchmen" would be spun off into its own Earth in the multiverse.
"We wanted to stay true to the material and there's a very specific tone and style presented there," said Didio. "If you consider it part of another world that's not really what we're focusing on... so what we're doing with 'Watchmen,' we want to stay true to that 'Watchmen' world."
Didio then told the audience that there will be one "Watchmen" book coming out a week, the seven books alternating their schedules as to when they come out.
"With the 'Crimson Corsair' every week Wein will be teasing you with a cliffhanger!" added Wayne.
Didio also said Minutemen, Ozymandais, and Comedian were six-part stories while the other comics will all run four issues.
A fan who had never read Moore's "Watchmen" wanted to know if she had to read the original graphic novel.
"It's new reader friendly," said Straczynski, clarifying that if you read the graphic novel you would get more out of the stories. He also told the crowd that some of the comics were origin stories while others just explored the characters.
The next fan wanted to know if there would be famous quotations in each comic just like the original story.
"That's a good idea, we should consider that," Didio responded.
"All of the titles of the six issues [of Ozymandias] are from the poem," said Wein. Lee told the fan that they brought over the nine panel grid and other stylistic flourishes from the original "Watchmen" as well.
Another fan wanted to know if readers should expect to see an animated feature or movie coming out of "Before Watchmen."
"That's a whole different discussion," said Lee, saying there were no plans at this time.
The very last question came from a fan who wanted to know if Captain Atom and Dr. Manhattan got in a fight, who would win?
"If they ever got in a fight, they'd trash your house!" laughed Straczynski, ending the panel.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more LIVE coverage of WonderCon 2012!