The artwork at Bleeding Cool has been removed with a note saying it was removed at the request of DC Comics.
Over at Bleeding Cool today, they ran a pair of stories that appear to blow the lid off the series of stories that the news and rumor site has been publishing about a series of prequels to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's classic Watchmen.
Without giving a source from which the two pieces came, Bleeding Cool separately ran the images below, which they claim are covers to two of the miniseries. One image features Nite Owl and is apparently by Andy and Joe Kubert, while the other is an image of The Comedian, which apparently originated from J.G. Jones. They appear more like character sketches than covers, given the placement of hand-written text on each, although with that removed these could presumably be made into covers if given a uniform trade dress.
Whatever they are, these images seem to sync up well with rumors that Bleeding Cool had run in October and early December. The rumors have Darwyn Cooke supervising a series of interconnected prequel miniseries focusing on the lives of the characters presumably before they retired from superheroics and set in the same universe as the Moore epic. Dave Gibbons has reportedly given his blessing to the project, although he is not mentioned in any credible articles as being involved directly himself.
Watchmen sequel talk began in earnest among many fans when it became known in 2009 that the stars of the Hollywood version had sequel clauses built into their contracts, allowing Warner Brothers to call them back in case the movie was such a hit that they wanted more. While the movie was a modest financial success, its box office take was disappointing and it's widely considered a flop; its director Zack Snyder, currently at work on Man of Steel for the studio, has always maintained that he had no interest in a sequel and only gave standard contracts to the actors for a movie of that scope and budget. Rumors of a comic book sequel have been persistent ever since, with many speculating that DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio is eager to follow up one of the company's most evergreen products and a sense that DC and Warner Brothers see value in keeping the Watchmen "brand" alive. Ownership issues in Watchmen drove a wedge between Moore and DC years ago, and while he briefly worked with the company again on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the combative relationship appears only to have gotten worse in the years since.
Before now, a large and growing pile of circumstantial evidence (vague statements from creators, schedule gaps and the like) has convinced many that the rumors being fed to Bleeding Cool were in fact true, but unless they're (very convincing) forgeries, it appears as though these sketches constitute a smoking gun (no pun intended in the case of The Comedian) linking these specific, rumored creators to a pair of specific, rumored projects. The site, which has been reporting since the beginning of the month that these books were being arranged under the title "Panic Room" to keep attention to a minimum, says that readers can probably expect more information from the publisher in early 2012.