DC announced several new comics at this weekend's Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, but the project that seemed to be getting the biggest promotional push -- with a viral marketing campaign, new preview art and even news of TV advertising -- was one they had already announced months ago: The controversial Before Watchmen suite of seven prequel miniseries.

The publisher put together a paper issue of the New Frontiersman, the fictional right-wing newspaper that Rorschach reads (and ultimately sends his war journal to) in the seminal 1987 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

You can read the front page of an issue online, where you'll see it's cover-dated 1977 (Say, that is before Watchmen!) and find a couple of articles referencing characters and events from the comic. There's an article entitled "Who Watches The Watchmen?," a blurry photograph of Rorschach and another article by Seymour Smith, a minor character who appears in the final pages of the book.

Clicking on highlighted words will open up hidden links, one of which will reveal a smattering of interior art from the prequel books, and another of which opens the New Fronteirsman Twitter account. Rather than being in character -- Twitter didn't exist during Watchmen, let alone before it -- they have so far been using it to promote the convention activities pertaining to the books.

These included Saturday's "DC All Access-Special Edition: Before Watchmen" panel attended by Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, Senior Editor Will Dennis and a half dozen of the involved creators (or "the iconoclastic BEFORE WATCHMEN creators," as DC's Source blog refers to them) including the polarizing J. Michael Straczynski.

According to Comic Book Resources' coverage of the panel, it seemed to be a remarkably friendly one, and if there was any negative reactions or hostile questions from the audience, they didn't make it into the article.

CBR staff writer Steve Sunu wrote:

Dan DiDio kicked off the panelist discussion, detailing the reasons for bringing a Watchmen prequel to the stands. "We believe they still had stories that could be told," said DiDio. "We've done several things, but the reality is that we found out people want to see more 'Watchmen' material."

"I'm happy to say that every single person sitting on this stage right now was the top of the wish list," he continued, saying he had "complete faith" in executing the series. DiDio also said he expected "more of a negative reaction" to the initial announcement. "What happened was incredible. Everyone I talked to was excited about it," saying "all the concerns went away" when people heard about the creative talent.

Straczynski apparently took the opportunity to once again compare Moore's usage of public domain characters from 19th century literature invented by long-dead men in League of Extraordinary Gentleman and Lost Girls to Straczynski's writing of the DC-owned, Moore and Gibbons-created Watchmen characters over the still-alive Moore's objections.

Reports Sunu:

Straczynski addressed the online criticism of Alan Moore and said he got it on an emotional level. "Alan Moore is a genius. No questions," said Straczynski. "On the other hand, he's been using characters like the Invisible Man, Peter Pan, Jekyl [sic] and Hyde in what one fan basically called fan fiction-in ways their original creators probably wouldn't have approved of. ... You stand on a slippery slope when you use the moral high ground."

"Did Alan Moore get a crummy contract? Yes. So did everyone at this table. Worse was Siegel and Shuster, worse was a lot of people." The writer went on to credit Dan DiDio for pushing the project through, despite the fact that most would not touch it.

The Before Watchmen books (Rorschach, Minutemen, Comedian, Dr. Manhattan, Nite Owl, Ozymandias and Silk Spectre) begin shipping in June. As revealed at the C2E2 Diamond Retailer Summit, comic fans can expect to be reminded of the releases through both conventional channels as well as TV ads over the coming months.

[Via The Source/Comic Book Resources]

More From ComicsAlliance