By Jeff Jensen
February 19, 2009 at 12:00 PM EST
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Watchmen is coming! Watchmen is coming! And…you don’t know a darn thing about it! Well, here we come to save the day: Check out our forthcoming cover story about Zack Snyder’s controversial superhero epic — or just peruse these introductory talking points.

1. Watchmen was published in 1986 by DC Comics as a 12-issue mini-series. Though set in an alternate-world America, the comic’s creators, writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, are both English. Both were key members of a vibrant British comic book scene that reveled in smart, irreverent, “post-modern” takes on classic superhero archetypes. That sensibility would inform their vision of Watchmen.

2. Originally, Moore and Gibbons envisioned a revisionist superhero saga/murder mystery that used existing superhero characters owned by DC Comics. Their ambition: an ultra-realistic depiction of superheroes and how such characters might actually shape and affect the real world, from politics to pop culture to religion. But when the publisher realized the creators’ irreverent and edgy treatment of the company’s valuable intellectual properties would either destroy or tarnish them, Moore and Gibbons were told to create their original characters for their story. And they did.

3. Fearful he didn’t have enough story to fill 12 issues, Moore decided to add issues devoted to deep, probing origin stories and alternate them with issues of forward-moving plot. This interchanging rhythm would become one of Watchmen’s distinguishing and most successful characteristics — and, ironically, contributed to the massive scope that has made the comic so challenging for filmmakers to adapt.

4. As Moore and Gibbons were wrapping up production on the Watchmen comic, they learned that the villain’s conspiracy plot was very similar to an episode of The Outer LimitsTV show titled “The Architects of Fear.” Too late to make anydramatic changes, Moore decided to script a scene in the final pages ofthe comic that pays explicit homage to the show.

5. Watchmen is the only comic ever to win the Hugo, thehighest honor in sci-fi/fantasy literature. It was published the sameyear as another trailblazing “adult” superhero comic: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, which has influenced the creative direction of Batman comics and Batman movies ever since.

6. In the wake of Watchmen’s provocative depiction ofdo-gooders, comic book publishers decided to ape its explicit adultcontent, thus launching an era of so-called “grim and gritty” superherocomics. Moore has decried this aspect of Watchmen’s legacy, insisting the point of characters like Rorschach was to critique vigilante justice, not promulgate it.

7. Watchmen‘s collected edition, released in 1989, helpedpioneer the graphic novel format and get comic books into traditionalbookstores. The paperback is now a perennial best seller for DC Comics.Currently, there are over 1 million copies in print.

8. Moore’s other famous works include From Hell, V For Vendetta, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. All have been made into movies.

9. No fan of Hollywood due to bad prior experiences, a notoriously rocky relationship with DC Comics (sister unit to Watchmenstudio Warner Bros.), and a general aesthetic disdain for the very ideaof “adaptation,” Moore has disavowed Zack Snyder’s adaptation, takenhis name off the film and ceded his royalty checks to Gibbons.

10. Famous Watchmen fans include Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Damon Lindelof (cocreator of Lost), Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler), and actor Jude Law.

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