Webwatching


I haven't finished converting the cover dates on my master list of comics milestones to on-sale dates, so the 25th anniversary of the release of Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons' Watchmen #1 is being observed now. The issue actually came out in June 1986, three months before its cover and indicia date. You can read more about this practice at the above link, and expect more commemorative posts once I finally get The Comicologist online, but I didn't want to let this occasion pass without comment.



The mid '80s were something of a renaissance era for the American comic-book industry, as the direct market (another of my frequently referenced posts) led to a rise in alternative / independent publishers, creator-owned projects, and more sophisticated storytelling. Watchmen #1 was released the same month as the final issue of Frank Miller's landmark miniseries Batman: The Dark Knight — as well as Superman #423 and Action Comics #583, which contained a two-part story written by Alan Moore titled "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" (the last issues of those titles published prior to John Byrne's revamp of the Man of Steel in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths).

You can view the full diversity on display in June 1986 by clicking that link over to Mike Voiles' Amazing World of DC Comics, named for an old DC house fanzine but now far bigger in scope than its title implies. One of my favorite aspects of Mike's site has long been the Time Machine feature, which lets you call up everything published by DC in a given month by either release date or cover date. He recently added not only a similar feature (with attendant indexes) for Marvel but, incredibly, an umbrella version called The Newsstand that includes publications from DC, Marvel, Archie, Fawcett, Quality, Charlton, Gold Key, Warren, First, Comico, Eclipse, and more. It's not yet comprehensive for more recent years, but there's always the no-frills ComicList for that — or at least there was; I went to the archive search page only to find that a new version is in the works and the old one is apparently out of commission.



I'd hoped to have seen the extended cut of Zack Snyder's 2009 Watchmen film on DVD by now, despite my problems with it upon theatrical release, but I haven't. Nor have I re-read the original graphic novel since shortly before the movie came out. So as this anniversary passes I'm left to mark it with some mostly frivolous links rather than the thoughtful review that the work deserves.

There are several references in my review of the movie, however, to the fascinating ways in which Moore & Gibbons' source material exploited the superhero genre and the comic-book medium itself. While my criticism of Snyder's film extends from problematic casting to music cues, I'm ultimately more disappointed about missed opportunities in its form than its content, or, more precisely, the fact that the movie focused on plot and character rather than framework. Watchmen is, to borrow a phrase from Roger Ebert, not just about what it's about but about how it's about what it's about, and its content — adult, realistic, dystopian — has been so influential on the superhero genre over the past few decades that any adaptation focusing on that content while ignoring Watchmen's exercises in form isn't going to feel particularly innovative or, to me, sufficiently reflective of the source.

Along with my movie review I posted a primer that briefly discusses the comic book's origins, contrasts it with the movie, and offers up some other supplementary info. But I didn't get around to sharing the several fun links that came my way at the time.



One of those links is to the opening sequence created by Harry Partridge to an imagined 1980s Watchmen Saturday-morning cartoon. Per the theme song: "Jon can give you cancer / And he'll turn into a car...".

That's Jon Osterman, alias Doctor Manhattan, of course, who's also the subject of Chris Impink's Minus Jon Plus Jon. In Garfield Minus Garfield, which everyone on the Internet was contractually obligated to blog about (including me), Dan Walsh took Jim Davis's Garfield strips and removed Garfield from them, leaving only, as Impink put it, an "exploration of the quiet desperation of Jon Arbuckle." Impink swaps out Arbuckle for a stat of Watchmen's Osterman as rendered by Dave Gibbons, and the existential angst of an omnipotent azure icon is revealed.





Doctor Manhattan also has a sparse Twitter feed fixated on his skin color and his tendency to go pantsless. Sample entries:
— "Auditioning for new Smurfs movie."
— "Still can't believe they picked Robin Williams over me for the role of The Genie."
— "Thinking I should get royalties on the ShakeWeight."



Among the parody Watchmen Hostess ads, my favorite also focuses on Doctor Manhattan, although someone who put together a collection of such parodies rightly points out that it's more a send-up of Watchmen (and in particular the chapter from which the page was copied) than of the Hostess Fruit Pie and Twinkies ads that appeared in comic books during the late '70s and early '80s.



There's another riff on that spacetime-bending chapter in Scott Kurtz's Ombudsmen, a weeklong takeoff of Watchmen that ran as part of his PVP online strip. It grafts Watchmen's plot onto the plight of newspaper strips (and print media in general) — Popeye assumes the role of Rorschach, and Jon Arbuckle is cast not as Jon Osterman (that's Dagwood Bumstead) but as mild-mannered Daniel Dreiberg so that the Nite Owl costume can amusingly be patterned after Garfield's coat of fur; the character standing in for Ozymandias is perfect, even if I'm not a fan of his strip.

While Kurtz uses Charlie Brown as The Comedian, a pair of Watchmen / Peanuts mash-ups each took a different tack. Shortly before the Watchmen film came out I wrote both to and about cartoonist Evan Shaner, who got so tired of the Internet frenzy over his gag that he actually removed it from his own website — although he did sneak a reworked version back up when the movie came out. Evan graciously gave me permission to republish it, although it's no longer showing up in my original post on the subject and I can't attempt fixes to any posts that old without them turning into many-headed Hydras of HTML hooey thanks to stupid Blogger juju. Comic-book guy Jeff Parker had done a similar cartoon back when Watchmen was first published, as he discussed on his blog a few years back.



That's just a sampling of winky Watchmen weirdness on the World-Wide Web. You'll find lots more miscellany at The Gunga Diner on a comprehensive site devoted to all things Watchmen. And if you have any favorite links of your own or other thoughts on Watchmen to share, I hope that you'll pipe up in comments.


Watchmen, its logo, and related characters are trademarks of DC Comics.
All other characters are trademarks or registered trademarks of, and images are copyright year of creation, their respective owners.

3 comments:

Arben said...

"Thinking I should get royalties on the ShakeWeight."

Ha! I love all this stuff. Los Interwebs really bring us some brilliant creations. Stuff like that Watchmen cartoon never would've been possible to realize before home computers with serious firepower, and of course you need high-speed data transfer to disseminate it.

Archie as Rorschach is pretty funny, although the first commenter is right that it didn't have proper payoff. Just the first page would've been enough as a gag, but once you add the second you really need it to go somewhere. Plus it would've been so simple and even more excellent to add a few lines to his temples to give him that telltale "tic-tac-toe" pattern Archie has.

Teebore said...

Haha, thanks for featuring Dr. Bitz's sporadic Doctor Manhattan twitter feed.

@Arben: Los Interwebs really bring us some brilliant creations.

Sometimes the internet seems like an unwieldy beast destined to devour its users; other times (like this) I reminded of just how awesome it is.

Arben said...

"Laurie painted a cannoli blue and left it on my pillow. Is she trying to send a message?"