Bleeding Cool has been reporting on the rumors for two years now, but DC Comics just made it official: They'll be publishing seven Watchmen prequel series under the Before Watchmen banner:

Rorschach by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo
Comedian by Brian Azzarello and JG Jones
Minutemen by Darwyn Cooke
Silk Spectre by Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner
Doctor Manhattan by J Michael Straczynski and Adam Hughes
Nite Owl by Joe Michael Strazynski (and presumably Andy and Joe Kubert)
Ozymandias by Len Wein and Jae Lee.

Bleeding Cool reports that the demand for these prequels came from high up in the Time Warner corporation, which owns DC Comics and has recently been taking a firmer hand in the way the company works: "...the word from on high at Warners had come to exploit any and all properties within the DC remit that could make money, and this specifically included Watchmen." I cringe that Azzarello, who is a writer I like a lot, refers to Watchmen as a "franchise" in the DC press release.

This is a terrible idea. Sure, these are some talented names in comics (well, some of them are talented; Strazynski is terribly overrated, for example), and these comics will make a butt-ton of money for DC initially. But to use their own corporate-speak against them, they're devaluing the brand. Watchmen, the original collected comic, is always one of their bestselling titles; it's on every DC year-end bestseller list. Now that they're doing this, I promise you: In ten years, it won't be there anymore. They'll be turning one of their bestselling books into a midlist by trying to extend it into a franchise, when the closed-circuit properties of Watchmen is what attracted people to the book. Both DC Comics and Marvel Comics need to be pumping all their money into creating new ideas. For the last twenty or thirty years, all they've been doing is milking the original properties for all they're worth; their audience is slowly realizing that there's nothing new in any of their comics—that it's the same story, over and over again—and they're going away forever. But enough about what I think: What do you think?