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Q&A with Before Watchmen Creators Darwyn Cooke and Len Wein

In an exclusive Q&A, Before Watchmen creators Darwyn Cooke and Len Wein share their thoughts with Kindle.Be sure to check out all the single issue Before Watchmen comics.

Q: Before Watchmen is a controversial project, to say the least. Upon being approached to work on it, what was your first reaction?

MinutemenDarwyn Cooke: My reaction was to politely decline. I didn't know I had anything to say that wasn't already there. It was a couple years before the story idea for Minutemen occurred to me, and that was when I committed to the project. Once I knew I had a story that excited me I got involved.

Len Wein: My first reaction was that the project sounded like a great deal of fun, especially the opportunity to play with a character like Ozymandias. The chance to flesh out Adrian Veidt's story was just something I couldn't resist.

Q: Following up on an iconic piece of art like Watchmen can be very daunting. Were you intimidated at all by the prospect of working on these classic characters?

D.C.: Yes. Very much so. Having gone through a similar experience with Will Eisner's Spirit I was very aware of how hard I'd have to work to live up to the source material Alan and Dave created. 

L.W.: Not in the least. Having already written the Watchmen video game, WATCHMEN; THE END IS NIGH, I was more than comfortable writing in this world. Having been the original series' editor made it even easier.

Q: Darwyn, why did you select Nite Owl (Hollis Mason) as the narrative voice for the Minutemen series?

D.C: Hollis' autobiography, Under The Hood, seemed like the most logical foundation on which to build my story and when we pick up the story in 1962 he's writing said book. That put him in his late forties evaluating his life up until then. Being in my late forties it was a very comfortable fit from a narrative standpoint.

OzyQ: Minutemen dives deep into the very flawed lives of a team that’s supposed to represent a Golden Age for heroes. Was it easy to take the story in such a dark direction or more difficult?

D.C: Very difficult. Most of the darkness was built into the characters by Alan and Dave so to be true to that and be true to the period of the story, one has to be careful to avoid transposing one's own values or modern mores onto the characters. Staying true to the social conventions and prejudices of the time make for a darker and somewhat more heartless story.

Q: Silk Spectre has been labeled as a “coming of age” story. Would you agree with that? Why or why not?

D.C.: I suppose I can agree in general, but it feels more like a small vignette of Laurie's journey. We see what sets her on a certain path, but when we leave her, she's still a teenage girl and she's just met Jon. Alan and Dave's story is where we see Laurie fully come of age.

Q: Ozymandias is such a visually striking series, with the layouts and framing sequences especially standing out. Len, what type of relationship did you have with artist Jae Lee in creating such a distinct feel for this story?

L.W.: I really have to give the overwhelming credit for the look of the series to Jae. I gave him very detailed, page/panel breakdowns to work from. How Jae interpreted those breakdowns is entirely to his own credit. I was more impressed than anyone when I first saw what Jae did with my story.

DollarManQ: What do you think is the most compelling part about the Ozymandias character?

L.W.: Oh, the internal dichotomy, certainly. The concept of a man who so loves the world that he is willing to murder millions of people to save it. Part of the fun of writing the book in the first person was to show the reader the vast difference between what Adrian tells the reader he's doing and what he's actually doing.

Q: Dollar Bill was Steve Rude’s first DC work in years. What was the best or most unique aspect of working with one of comics’ great talents? 

L.W.: Steve very much wanted to tell a story with a happy ending in some way. Since our hero is killed several pages before the end, that posed a challenge I was eager to tackle. Also, how often does one get to work with a talent like Steve Rude in one's lifetime?

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