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[Some minor SPOILERS for Batman #21 ahead.]
The lentincular covers are back on the shelves this week, thanks to DC’s first installment in the “We’re Finally Getting Around to That Whole Watchmen Thing” storyline running through Batman and Flash for the next few issues. Ah, the long-missed “zzzzzip-zzzzzip” sounds of those covers sliding against each other as customers pull their copies off the rack. Actually, I’m surprised it took DC this long to get back to doing these fancy movin’ picture covers, since they certainly grab attention (even if they’re hard to stack on the rack in any sizable quantity if you don’t have anything at the front of the shelf to keep them from toppling over and falling off, since they don’t exactly lay flat). I mean, I can understand why they don’t, given the extra lead time it takes to get these printed after taking in orders, so saving them for special occasions like this, where it’s worth the extra hassle, makes sense.
However, I will note that I’m getting lots of requests for the non-lenticular variants on this issue, as compared to the newsstand editions of the lenticular covers the last time we did this which mostly just kinda sat there and stared back at me from the rack with their sad little eyes.
Of course, none of this has anything to do with the actual content, which is the first storyline to actually revolve around the connection between the DC Universe and the Watchmen since that DC Universe Rebirth special from last year. Yes, there have been references here and there to “something bigger” going on behind the various reality-changing shenanigans going on, most notably in the recent “Superman Reborn” series of comics, as well as the occasional mention in Flash and either Titans or Teen Titans or maybe both…I’m specifically thinking of whatever one had the old Flash villain Abra Kadabra. The whole “Dr. Oz” thing that’s been in the Superman books had been assumed by some folks to be Ozymandias from Watchmen, though that seems a little too on-the-nose and obvious (which doesn’t rule it out, I do realize). He is involved somehow in the whole Watchmen event, but I feel like there’ll be a different reveal than “Gasp! It’s Ozymandias!” Maybe it’s Bubastis. Or an in-his-fightin’-trim Seymour.
Anyway, we don’t get a whole lot regarding any actual Watchmen characters yet, aside from what we can assume is an off-screen Dr. Manhattan doing away with the villain. There’s also a bit of business where the Comedian’s button reacts to the Psycho Pirate’s mask…a reference to (and likely a plot point based on) the conclusion of the now-30-year-old Crisis on Infinite Earths, which left Psycho Pirate as the one character who remembered the pre-Crisis multiverse…well, aside from everyone else who remembered it. (That situation was more-or-less twisted back into its original intent later in Animal Man.) And on top of all that, the comic is laid out in the 9-panel-grid in which Watchmen was largely presented.
I’m not 100% convinced we’re going to see any Watchmen characters in this particular story, honestly, beyond maybe a fleeting glimpse…I mean, we’ll find out within the next three weeks, of course. There’s more to come, too…the Batman issue I just placed orders for is already following up on the events in this storyline, so my guess is whatever big reveal we’re getting now is going to be “huh, there’s a multiverse and this button is from another universe and someone from said universe is futzing around with us.” Okay, I think the characters knew most of that already, but my point is that the full-on “Naked Blue Man Versus the DC Universe” is waiting for a Big Event Crossover Thingie down the line, and not happening in this Batman/Flash crossover that’s running now. Like I said, we’ll find out how right or wrong I am soon enough.
So there’s a little extra information brought to my attention by pal Christopher in regards to that lost DC Comics Presents Swamp Thing/Superman team-up that I mentioned last time. Christopher informs me that an interview with early ’80s Swamp Thing scribe Marty Pasko in Back Issue #87, Mr. Pasko relates that he had a script for said team-up ready to go, but the script was assigned to artist Alex Toth, who never got around to completing the job and turning it in. Though no details about that story were related in the article, Christopher guesses that this may have been the story promised in Saga of the Swamp Thing #16, and I’m inclined to agree with him. Ah, well…that’s too bad, as I’d like to have seen an Alex Toth-drawn Swamp Thing…I know his Superman wasn’t too shabby.
In other news:
Pal Rich has published his book Watching Time: The Unauthorized Watchmen Chronology, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a gathering of all the events from all across the Watchmen universe, from the original comics to the prequels to the movie and even the video games, and placed into a chronological order. Each entry is tagged with its source, so you can determine the level of its relevance yourself. Rich even points out where there are contradictions between sources on particular topics (such as multiple conflicting details about the character of Rolf Müller, who may or may not be Hooded Justice).
There is an enormous amount of information presented here, and for someone like me, who likes seeing how the various interpretations of the same material/franchise fit together (or don’t), there’s a lot to enjoy. And yes, even the unproduced film scripts are included in the chronology. Rich was very thorough. Also noted is the virtually hot-off-the-presses inclusion of the Watchmen characters in the DC Universe “Rebirth” event. No, Rich doesn’t know any more about what’s going on there than we do. He can save that for Watching Time Part Two!
Now I’m a little biased here, since, as implied by the “pal” above, Rich has been an online chum for some time now, and I am in fact thanked in the acknowledgements in the book (I helped look into a couple things for Rich as he was putting this together), and he was good enough to send me a digital copy of the book to peruse. However, I think I’m going to end up getting a print copy of this to keep with the rest of my Watchmen goodies. And you can, too, if you go to his promo page and follow the various store links there.
In other, other news: I produced another in my “Back Issue of the Week” entries for my store site. I like writing those…it’s very “back to basics” blogging that I don’t do enough of here. Hey, remember when it seemed like bloggers were rediscovering this comic every couple of months? I don’t think I ever got around to writing about it…maybe now’s my chance!
Okay, for the life of me, I have no idea how I missed this on my pass through Previews for the most recent installment of the End of Civilization:
This is…just nuts, really. Now don’t get me wrong, I love ridiculous exploitations of the Watchmen property, mostly out of what I’ve described in the past as the “sheer hilarious gall” of the publisher to continue finding new ways to aggravate the purists. There’s a part of me that’s all “I can’t believe they’re still doing this” but it’s vastly overwhelmed by the cultural observer in me, fascinated by whatever new permutation is about to be inflicted upon us. True, the toaster set the bar fairly high in terms of sheer crassness, but I still have a soft spot for all these neat little Heroclix figures.
Anyway, what you see above is the listing in the August 2016 Previews for a bunch of Watchmen tie-in shirts, featuring the Big Three Super-logos all affixed with the bloodsplash that you’ll remember from the Comedian’s smiley-face button (and repeated as a motif throughout the story). Here’s a better look:
This…is a strange item, certainly, which will confuse anyone not up-to-date on current DC continuity (so pretty much “the population of Earth +/- 0.0001%”) and will wonder “why the red blotch? What does that mean?” Not that “being clear to the mundanes” has ever been a top priority with fan merch…it’s more for signaling to others in the same club, as was pointed out to me when I expressed curiosity over the choice of design for that Sandman “it was good being your raven” t-shirt that came out decades ago. Or of course I’m just overthinking it, and some folks out there will just like the design and not care a single bit if anyone else “gets it.”
The real purpose, however, is for fans to wear these shirts and remind each other that Watchmen is part of the DC Universe now, though to what extent exactly is not entirely known, beyond what was presented in the initial DC Universe Rebirth one-shot (though there are theories). Like I’ve said before, we’ll get some kind of event down the road where the Watchmen/DCU connection will be addressed in full, and that these shirts exist at all implies its inevitability. Whether this means “BATMAN VS. RORSCHACH, FOR ALL THE MARBLES” remains to be seen (but boy, I sure hope so).
Discovered folded and tucked into a beat-up run of Watchmen that was recently dropped on us was this hand-drawn map of a certain location of import to the story:
Click that pic for a larger image.
I also feel like I’ve seen something like this before, like maybe in one of the Watchmen supplements for the DC Role Playing Game. It’s not in the backmatter of the Absolute Edition hardcover.
So, when we were last talking about Before Watchmen, I posted a poll asking what some of you folks were planning to regarding the series…avoid it, try it out, steal it, whatever. Thus far, three-fifths of the respondents indicated that they would not buy it.
Now, that poll may not be entirely balanced…an online fandom interested enough in the matter to 1) read comic blogs and 2) vote in an online poll may be a little more aware of the situation and thus more inclined to skew negatively. But even those in-store customers of mine who don’t pay any attention to comics news outside of whatever happens to be in Comic Shop News that week (I assure you, such customers exist) are voting the way comic readers usually vote: with their wallets.
Now that I’ve had a few days of sales to see how things go, I can report that Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 has sold…okay. Not flying off the shelves in a Superman #75-esque frenzy of consumer demand, but moving along at a steady pace. From previous experience, I’m relatively certain once Minutemen #2 comes out, or even when the next series or two start up, we’ll get further requests for the initial releases. However, like I’d said before, we’ll see how it goes in the long run, if we’ll get consumer resistance once the series and issues start piling on.
I’ve only had a handful of customers at the shop bring up Alan Moore’s disdain for this project, and it was about 50/50 whether those particular folks picked up the book or not. And there are other reasons outside of creators’ rights issues why some customers may not be picking up the book: didn’t like the movie, didn’t care for the original comic, it’s been just plain too long since the original to care about prequels, still burnt out on Watchmen after the media saturation surrounding the film, or simply aren’t interested in a Watchmen comic not by Moore and Gibbons. But, like I said, it’s not like it’s not selling…it seems to be selling fine. It’s not a monster smash like Avengers Vs. X-Men, but I would have been surprised if it were.
I’m almost tempted to put up another poll, “Of those of you who said you wouldn’t buy Before Watchmen, how many of you bought it anyway” because c’mon, I know somebody did. And this is interesting: I usually get my share of Google referrals to my site from people looking to mooch uploaded scans of current comics, generally a few a day. But in the last week or so, I have been bombarded with searches from people looking for scans of Before Watchmen. Apparently, the demand is there to read it, just not pay for it.
Like the presumably-pseudonymous Interstate Shogun said in the comments, I’m also surprised it took DC this long to do more Watchmen comics. A few years back I swore up and down that if DC was going to do it, they’d do it when the movie came out just so they’d have more product to sell during the peak of interest in the property (aside from the misguided After Watchmen promotion, which tried to get Watchmen fans to sample similar books, such as…um, Identity Crisis and Batman: Hush). I wonder how Before Watchmen would have sold had it come out then? (I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a brand new one-shot comic adaptation of the film, distilling the movie, itself a paring/dumbing down of the original material, down to 64 pages or so.)
Now, about Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 itself…it wasn’t bad. Darwyn Cooke’s art is, as always, beautiful. The story is…well, if you wanted more action from the Golden Age characters in Watchmen, here you go. It all looks relatively surface-level, expanding on material already covered in necessary depth in the original book. Not terribly deep in the metacommentary department, as most of the points made about the genre are, again, repeated from the original, aside from the very opening pages of the comic, a seeming reaction to trying to tell this story under these particular circumstances. Alan Moore as the “guy [who] throws a wrench in the gears,” taking “away your understanding of the world you live in” — the superhero comics genre — and the folks who “search for the things that brought [them] happiness in the past” — the way superhero comics were before everyone thought imitating Watchmen was the way to go. And of course there’s Mason’s (Cooke’s) own reaction to trying to duplicate Moore and Gibbon’s style from the original.
…And this has been “Mike Overanalyzes A Dumb Ol’ Comic Book at Stupid O’Clock in the Morning.” Thanks for putting up with these rambling thoughts on the topic, folks, and I’ll see you again in a day or two.
So I was talking with pal Dorian the other day about the impending release this Wednesday of Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1, and how I thought it, and the Before Watchmen project as a whole, were going to sell.
I think it’s going to sell great, at least at first. As I noted before, there may be a bunch of online outrage about it, but Internet reaction =/= instore sales. Plus, some of those people complaining about Before Watchmen are still going to buy it anyway, because of course they will. (Yes, yes, I know, not you…you don’t need to tell me so in the comments.)
I have been receiving several requests for the Before Watchmen books, as well as a number of comic-saver folks adding it to their pull lists, so, like I said, it should have a strong start, at first. Once we’re a month or two in, and people begin to realize “oh, man, this is like a half-dozen or so new mini-series I have to follow, isn’t it,” then we’ll start to see the sales attrition as the picking-and-choosing begins. (Or maybe the, I don’t know, Ozymandias series will be the Greatest Thing Ever and a sales juggernaut.) Of course, having the “Crimson Corsair” back-ups run through all the minis is a clever way of encouraging readers to get the whole enchilada rather than have missing chapters of that particular serial…assuming of course “Crimson Corsair” is enough of a draw.
I don’t expect a flop. There is enough curiosity out there in this project, even if it’s just “what the hell is DC doing?” disbelief, to drive initial sales. And believe it or not, there are still people who go to the comic shops who spend little or no time online perusing the comic news sites or message boards and will have no idea there’s any brouhaha at all about this Before Watchmen situation. They’ll just see the logo on the stands, think “huh, I remember reading Watchmen, that wasn’t half-bad” and throw the comic in their piles.
Anyway, having mocked the value of online reaction, I am now seeking…your online reaction, via that most most scientific method of pinning down the public’s opinion, the blog poll. I have quite a few options there, but I’m sure it’s not 100% comprehensive…if you have a write-in choice, just drop it in the comments.
So I was just going to leave this post (and my smartypantsiness on the Twitter) to be my comment on the whole “Before Watchmen” prequel thing, since that’s been discussed to death by everyone already. But (and you knew there was a “but” coming), I did have someone come into the shop a couple of days ago to buy a copy of the Watchmen trade paperback, telling me the specific reason he was buying it was because of the prequels announcement. “The prequels look interesting,” he said, “and since I never did read the original, I thought I’d better get it before those prequels started coming out!”
Now, for us, sales peaked on the Watchmen trade just prior to the movie’s release, then dropped to almost nothing as soon as it was out. (You know, as usual with comic book movies.) We used to reorder the book every week prior to the movie ever being a factor, ordered tons of the book when the movie was a Big Deal, and now if I reorder the book more than once every few months, I’m surprised. The local market may just be saturated after the big movie-inspired sales bump, on top of the fact that we’ve been selling the darn thing for twenty five years and most comic fans who had even the vaguest interest in giving Watchmen a go have already went.
On the other hand, we may be experiencing a Howard the Duck event, in which the reputation of a once highly-regarded comic has been supplanted by the reputation of a not-so-regarded film adaptation. Any new customers spotting Watchmen on the shelves will think “oh, yeah, that dumb weirdly-violent movie,” not “hey, isn’t that the ground-breaking deconstructionist comic about the state of the superhero genre as it stood in the mid 1980s?”
I’ve no idea how sales on the Watchmen trades have been overall. I can only go by how things are doing at our shop. Maybe its sales haven’t dropped as drastically everywhere else as they did for us, but this is a quarter-century old comic that’s been consistently available for sale, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it isn’t moving like it used to.
So there you go: the Watchmen prequels could very well get those last few stragglers who haven’t picked up Watchmen to maybe try it out, bumping up interest in an item that may have hit some rough times in its post-film adaptation era. I’m basing this entirely on the single data source of our store, and on one customer transaction, but I’ve written posts for this site on shakier foundations, so why would I stop now.
But of course it’s promotion to help keep one of DC’s most famous evergreen graphic novels alive, but going from one famously self-contained graphic novel to, eventually, a shelf of eight graphic novels could be more of an imposing detriment than a long-term sales boost. I guess we’ll see.
Now speaking of which…I have no idea how to order on these prequel mini-series. I’m hoping DC will make the first issues of all of them returnable, so I can order high in case these really take off, but not get stuck if they receive the “check this out, comics based on that crappy movie” reaction. Yeah, yeah, I know everyone online threw a huge shit-fit when “Before Watchmen” was announced, but if actual sales were tied to online reaction, All Star Batman and Robin wouldn’t have been the best-selling comic on our shelves in any given month it deigned to come out.
I suspect they’ll sell reasonably well, but I don’t expect they’ll have the life expectancy of the original, which probably didn’t need to be said but I said it anyway. At the very least, however, it’ll hopefully get a few new people gaining an appreciation for Moore and Gibbons’ Watchmen…even if it’s only by comparison.
I realize none of this gets into the moral or artistic issues of whether or not DC should be doing publishing new Watchmen comics. There are already plenty of other folks arguing about that right now, and maybe I’ll discuss it in a later post, if I feel like getting more grey hair.
For another look at this whole prequel hoohar, here’s the presumably-pseudonymous Sleestak with the article “Controversy as Advertising.”
• • •
In other news, I was looking at DC Comics’ site to check some info on the Watchmen
stuff, when I saw this headline:
“ANNOUNCING SMALLVILLE SEASON 11”
OH GOD NO…oh, wait, it’s just a Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8/9-esque comics-only follow-up. I hope it’s just page after page of never quite showing heavily photo-referenced drawings of Tom Welling in his Superman suit…like, he’s always in shadow or behind potted palm trees or something.
…but surely somebody did:
Almost, but not quite, up there with those Metal Men t-shirts
in the “not really explaining what all this is about” department. Though I guess that’s probably the point of wearing a shirt like this…the right people will know
Hey, remember that time in the ’80s when Howard Chaykin did an adult-themed Blackhawk mini-series, and it was relatively popular and there were follow-up Blackhawk comics by other creators that were also adult-ish and slightly naughty and they were still getting enough attention that DC actually produced a little bit of point-of-sale signage to tell everyone “hey, Blackhawk’s in our weekly anthology book?”
And there it is. There’s tape residue on the back, so this sign was up at the shop at some
point. Hopefully when the book was coming out in 1988, and not, say, in 1993.
I’m pretty sure this next bit of comics retail detritus, dated 1987, was intended to get names and addresses for store mailing lists…at least, that’s how it should have been used:
In case you can’t read the text:
“We the undersigned, wish to voice our opinion as guaranteed by the first amendment. The Mutant Registration Act as outlined by the government must be repealed if we are to maintain our freedoms as specified in the Constitution.”
Pretty sure “First Amendment” is supposed to be capitalized. Also, has the Mutant Registration Act been repealed yet? I haven’t been keeping up.
So Wednesday I had a customer ask me where he could find the Black Freighter comic book, as seen in the Watchmen film. “Only in Watchmen, my friend,” I told him, but I’m still really surprised no new comic-format tie-ins to the film were released. A “replica” Black Freighter comic would have been kind of neat, and perhaps not as…off-putting to the purists as, say, a Nite Owl & Silk Spectre mini-series. Well, there was that fan-made attempt at reconstructing the comic from its excerpts in Watchmen. But I suppose the Black Freighter DVD that was released made an actual comic book release redundant.
…Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m about a year out of date with this Watchmen movie tie-in talk. Look, I’ve been out of it for about a week, and this guy really did ask me this yesterday. I gotta work with what I got, man.
Also, pal Brandon passed this link along to me, and I was going to put it up as one of my sick day posts, but a quick Googling showed that it already made the rounds on some of the comic news sites. But, eh, what the hell…a song about Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl. It ain’t too shabby.
And in all my griping over the last few days about my painful dental issues, I see I never did mention that poor ol’ Employee Aaron managed to get one of his toes broken. No, no, not as a result of a cruel and unfair punishment meted out by me for violating one of our draconian workplace rules. This time. He was doing something at home, like, I think, saving a bunch of nuns and orphans from a buffalo stampede, when he tripped and fell, and, whoops, there goes the pinkie toe. So Sir Aaron Limps-a-lot is staggering around the shop, I can’t talk to anyone because my cheek has swollen up into a hot, painful lump the size of a Ford Festiva, and Ralph has pneumonia, dengue fever and the yaws…we’re a fine bunch.
Speaking of Watchmen, and not speaking of all us sick crew, as I was trying to find that Black Freighter reconstruction, I came across this photo of (presumably authentic) Watchmen film props for the Black Freighter comic and the Tijuana Bible. The user who uploaded that image has other Watchmen items from the film, including some of the magazines…that New Yorker would be a neat item to have.
In other news:
- So former employee pal Sean‘s band, The Kill Junkies, just released their first album Steamroller which is available from Amazon in that convenient MP3 format. It’s more metal than a really metal thing filled with metal, so it may not be for gentler ears, but Sean’s a swell guy and I’m happy to support his creative endeavors.
- And now…NAKED SUPERMAN AND BATMAN (safe for work, from a Code-approved comic)! I find the jar containing the brain of the Gorilla Boss (visible in one of the panels) to be simultaneously creepy and sad.
- I am slowly…very slowly…almost too slowly…going through and tagging my older posts, and the most recent effort was made tagging most of my Watchmen posts. Now you can more easily find my writings on that particular topic, including the single greatest Watchmen post to ever appear on any comic blog, ever.
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