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'Watchmen' prequels provoke debate in comic book community

A prequel series will be released this summer, written by acclaimed comic book authors – but the original 'Watchmen' writer isn't involved.

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In the original “Watchmen” series, there was a separate storyline called “Tales of the Black Freighter” that was supposed to be a comic book published within the fictional world of “Watchmen.” A similar device will be used in the new “Before Watchmen” series, with new installments of a story titled “Curse of the Crimson Corsair” running through each issue. In the “Watchmen” universe, DC Comics began publishing stories about pirates, which led to the fictional comic book “Tales of the Black Freighter,” and the story of "Tales" was woven through the main plotline of "Watchmen."

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DC said new issues of “Before Watchmen” will be published weekly, but have not provided a more extensive schedule.

Original illustrator for “Watchmen” Dave Gibbons, who served as an adviser for the film, gave a statement that suggests he is more approving of the project than is Moore.

“The original series of ‘Watchmen’ is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell,” he said. “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.”

Azzarello told USA Today that he thinks fans will approve of the new venture once they read the material.

“You're going to get the Rorschach that you know and want,” he said of his contribution. “It's a very visceral story we're going to be telling.”

Writer Darwyn Cooke, who will be behind “The Minutemen,” told The L.A. Times that he initially had reservations about taking on the project because of the controversy he knew it would cause. When originally offered a role in it, Cooke said he refused.

“This is going to generate a lot of a particular type of attention that’s really not my bag,” he said. “But what happened is, months after I said no, the story elements all just came into my head one day; it was so exciting to me that, at that exact moment, I started seriously thinking about doing the book.”

Azzarello told The New York Times that he also thinks fans of the original will come around.

“I think the gut reaction is going to be, ‘Why?’ ” he said of current reaction to the news. “But then when the actual books come out, the answer will be, ‘Oh, that’s why.’”

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.

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