The rumours of these have been around for a while. Here are my thoughts now that it’s official:
1. I’d rather they didn’t make these and probably won’t be getting these myself (Darwyn Cooke on Minutemen isn’t the worst idea admittedly).
2. DC is part of a large corporation. As pointed out in the movie The Corporation, corporations fit the diagnostic criteria for being a sociopath. It’s a minor miracle that this hasn’t happened sooner and to be sure DC does deserve some praise for how long they restrained themselves.
3. I am glad that these are prequels rather than sequels. What happens after that last panel of Watchmen should be left to the reader’s imagination.
4. If you are truly dead set against these, don’t buy them, at least not firsthand. That will only guarantee more of these. If you hate the idea but feel compelled to read them, they’ll eventually be collected and make it to libraries.
5. One way to look at these is as apocryphal, not entirely canon. Even if DC insists they’re canon you are entitled to make up your own mind and treat them as canon or not as you desire. You can even like them and still think of them as apocryphal. If I go the library route or something similar I’ll definitely take the apocryphal approach.
6. Original writer Alan Moore has spoken out against them while original artist Gibbons has given his blessing. Prior to his falling out with DC, Moore did take part (with Ray Winninger) on Watchmen prequels previously, but only for role-playing games, which are definitely apocryphal.
7. 35 total issues of prequel seems a bit excessive for a 12-issue series, though to be fair modern day comics are a lot more decompressed than they were when Watchmen was first released.
8. Despite my disinterest in reading these, I don’t begrudge others enjoying these. I decided I wasn’t the target audience for DC anyway when the new 52 comics came out, so I view these as simply being aimed at a different sort of reader than myself. Life’s too short for me to get upset that someone enjoyed something I’d rather didn’t exist.
9. My main concern isn’t that someone other than Alan Moore is touching these (certainly Moore has touched numerous other writers’ work without their blessing) but rather because I consider the original story to be as complete as a story can be.
10. Having said that, given that other people are writing Watchmen, I would hope that they bring their A-game to this project and realize that any new stories, while not necessarily in Moore’s style, should at least be written as smartly. If you are trying to write something that “cool”, you’re probably doing it wrong. If your own skin crawls while you write it, you might be on the right track.
11. Likewise, the art shouldn’t just look pretty but add more detail to the story than is normally the case. If you read the word balloons but just glimpse at the art, you should be missing a lot of the story.
12. Given the time lag between the original work and the prequels, it’s highly unlikely that most people will judge the quality of the original work on the basis of the prequels. There might be the odd person who picks up a prequel and decides to pass on the original work, but probably not too many, and there is of course the possibility that someone will read a prequel and decide to sample the original as a result.
13. This coming out so soon after the new 52 means that DC has gotten yery brave, very desperate, or both.
14. If you don’t read the prequels, they are neither good nor bad. You can make an educated guess as to how you’d enjoy them but can’t state categorically either way.
15. At least DC is resisting the temptation to make the Watchmen part of their multiverse. Like them or not, as far as I know there’s no meeting with Superman or the Charlton characters (and the latter must be very tempting for some at DC). I would ask DC to keep things that way. It would only take Green Lantern showing up and gathering up all the nukes to turn things into a joke that would make the Comedian gasp. Even if they did, though, the solution would be to ignore those tales.
In summary: I don’t care for the idea and I’m passing on it but making them prequels (and not using other DC characters) will hopefully prevent this from being a total train wreck. I still think that Watchmen shouldn’t be touched, being self-contained, but I respect that others feel differently and if people enjoy these that’s great. The original story is still as good as it ever was and ten years from now, when people talk about Watchmen, the default will remain the original mini-series and not the prequels.