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Watching for parodies.

§ December 14th, 2023 § Filed under this week's comics, watchmen § 15 Comments

Okay, this week on the site is a little wonky, given some early morning medical stuff I’ve got going on, so this may be the last post here ’til next Monday.

Anyway this week the new issue of Kevin Smith’s Quickstops came out, and I’ve been enjoying these. I saw this cover and thought “that’s pretty funny,” I’ll get this version:

…and then I saw the other cover with the Watchmen parody, and the decision was made for me:

As as longtime appreciator of Watchmen ephemera, this is right up my alley, but it reminds me that there have been other parodies and references that I passed up at the time and sorta/kinda regret doing so. Like this one from 1987:

Not that I need to add another weird wrinkle to the old comic collecting I still do for myself, along with old fanzines, those last few Seaboard/Atlas comics I need, Popeye comics, and Nancy and Sluggo stuff. But, you know, what the heck.

Speaking of new comics for the week, you got your copy of this, right?

The Venn diagram of “high brow” and “low brow” forms a single circle for this comic. That’s meant as a compliment.

The rare almost-appropriate usage of the phrase “here’s the thing.”

§ January 2nd, 2023 § Filed under collecting, the thing, watchmen § 13 Comments

So I’m not good at “end-of-year” lists where I run down the best comics, simply because 1) I haven’t read everything, so I’ll feel like a dummy for leaving some stuff out, and 2) I haven’t even read everything from the past year that I’ve taken home to read. As I’ve noted time and again, I have stuff from four years ago, about the time I started having my eyeball shenanigans, that I haven’t read yet. I still have that big ol’ collection of pre-Popeye Thimble Theatre to read, for example.

Thus the plan was to at least point out a handful of oversized collections I picked up this year, as I obviously did’t have enough already to read. I had my reasons for acquiring each, which I can detail (though in at least one case you can probably guess).

But here’s the thing…one of these I’ve already discussed, another I need to take some decent pictures of for use here since I can’t find any decent ones at distributors or on eBay that I can steal borrow, and the third is still at the shop stilling on a shelf behind my counter.

The first one, the one I already talked about, is the Absolute Edition of Doomsday Clock. Yes, it’s garbage, but it’s well-presented garbage, with beautiful artwork reproduced at good size, and plenty of behind-the-scenes material to be had. There’s also that extra thingie in the back of the book that literally shocked me. It remains a “was this trip really necessary” kind of thing, with its ultimate purpose (attempting to once again give in-universe explanations for DC’s rejiggering/rebooting of its fictional milieu) already pretty much ignored or supplanted or piled-upon by other DC event books, as everyone assumed would happen.

But, as a collector of weird Watchmen-related ephemera, this felt like an interesting item to have. Plus, it matches up nicely with my Absolute Watchmen slipcased edition, a thought that probably is giving someone somewhere a bit of a twinge right behind their eyes.

The second oversized collection I’ll talk about later in the week, once I get some pictures taken.

The third collection, still sitting shrinkwrapped at the store, is the Thing Omnibus:

This collects the 36 issues of the Thing series from the 1980s, along with a couple of issues of Fantastic Four that tie into storylines in that book. There are also other miscellaneous Thing stories from the period mixed in (like the Barry Windsor-Smith story from Marvel Fanfare, a Marvel Tales back-up, and that Jim Starlin/Bernie Wrightson Thing/Hulk graphic novel). Issue #3 of the computer-game tie-in Questprobe is even included. I kinda wish they’d made room for the Hulk/Thing team-up in Marvel Fanfare #20 and #21, also by Starlin, which has never been reprinted in the U.S. as far as I know. Ah, well, there’s always the next omnibus.

Now why did I need this volume? Well…I didn’t, really. I own nearly all of its contents still…that Thing series, the graphic novel, the FFs, the BWS story. But it is nice to have it all in once place, and that cover…! There were two covers for this book, because of course there were. One cover, by John Byrne (who wrote the early part of the series), was taken from this issue, and it’s…fine, though not a patch on the Ron Wilson cover they did use. That’s one of the great and iconic images of Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew.

Ron Wilson drew a whole lotta this book, and he is one of the unsung heroes of superhero funnybooks…clearly inspired by Jack Kirby, but not, like, outright copying the guy. One of the surprises this omnibus has for me is its inclusion of a story from the 1990s version of Marvel Super-Heroes which I hadn’t read, featuring 22 new-to-me pages of Wilson art. Can’t wait to see that.

One thing (heh) I am curious about is that in this issue there was a scripting/editing error which resulted in two conflicting names for the same character. It would be nice if that was straightened out. Also, the “How to Draw The Thing” page from this ish better be in there. I need nice, quality printing of the Thing telling me to not give him no lips. (Which of course literally works out to “give him lips,” but I’m not gonna tell ol’ Benji that.) Also, stop giving the Thing a neck, you guys, so long as we’re on the topic.

I know that’s Too Many Words for a book I haven’t even cracked the covers on yet, but it’s an exciting book to have. That Thing series was quite good, with some nice emotional/background work on the character, particuarly in the early issues. And the whole post-Secret Wars “Rocky Grimm, Space Ranger” was a weird ride, with Ben Grimm, adventuring on an alien world, finally with the ability to switch back and forth between human and Thing forms. All fun, all well-drawn, and all solid support for why the Thing is one of the greatest Marvel characters ever created. If not in fact the greatest. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. He’s even better than Hellcow, don’t make me fight you.

And I just go ahead and relitigate anyway.

§ October 28th, 2022 § Filed under watchmen § 14 Comments

So, being the proud owner of the “Absolute Edition” of Watchmen, the oversized hardcover reprinting the series and included the production notes and back matter from the earlier Graphitti Designs hardcover I didn’t buy when I had the chance and regretted for years, I of course had to have the accompanying Absolute Edition of Doomsday Clock.

Now I don’t know if I need to relitigate this series yet again (you can read my initial reaction to the series’ conclusion right here), but it was interesting to 1) read the whole story in relatively short order instead of the couple of years it originally took, and 2) read it with mostly-functional eyes, versus having to use, like, magnifying glasses and trying to look at it with blood-blurred vision during its run. Doomsday Clock was, for a period of about a year and a half, literally the only comic book I’d read as my eye problems made it too difficult to do any reading. But I had to see what they were doing with the Watchmen characters in the DC Universe.

What I found with the reread was…I didn’t miss much in my initial pass. I did forget that the character of Nostalgia, who hilariously appears at the end of the recently-concluded Flashpoint Beyond, was introduced in the final pages of Doomsday Clock. But otherwise, no, I retained nearly all the major plot points and actions. There was no “oh, I missed this nuance the first time but caught it on the revisit,” as there is no nuance. It’s all surface level. It has the appearance of depth, but it’s all…well, I’ve called this a “cargo cult” comic, superficially mimicking the original in the hopes of attracting the same attention and acclaim.

The comic is at its best when dealing with Superman. If Geoff Johns has an affinity for writing anything, it’s ol’ Supes. And the best bit is the tying of Superman to the evolution of the DCU, though as I said before, it would have been nice if they could have done this without involving the Watchmen characters, but then they wouldn’t have pulled in the readers. And this series did sell well.

I should also note that the art by Gary Frank is absolutely gorgeous, and the Absolute format showcases it wonderfully. In all, it’s not like I hate this comic or anything. It’s certainly questionable that it should have been done at all, and it’s filled with bits that are especially weird and not in a good way. But it’s competently done and keeps your interest up, even as its explicitly stated purpose (“sorry about the New 52, everyone”) becomes increasingly obvious. Every change to DC’s fictional milieu apparently requires convoluted explanations, and devoting Moore and Gibbons’ Watchmen to yet another one of those said explanations seems like a bit of overkill.

Anyway, that’s not what I came here to tell you about. I wanted to point out a special unsung extra in the Absolute Edition. There are a few dozen pages of material in the back, mostly showing off covers and promo posters. There are character sketches and designs, other production work, plenty of notes, etc. Makes for an entertaining perusal.

As I got to the last page of the book, however, I was literally startled to find this stuck in-between the credits page and the endpaper — a coated cardboard reproduction of the photo of Jon and Janey, taken just prior to Jon’s accident that transforms him into Dr. Manhattan:

And it’s inscribed with their names on the back of the “photo” as well. I was not expecting to see that, and I definitely gave out a little “whoa!” of surprise when I happened upon it. It’s a neat little addition, and actually ties thematically to events in the book, just to find this photo where you least expect it.

That’s really all I wanted to mention, but I can’t bring up Doomsday Clock without pointing out the misguided-yet-complelling-at-least-to-me aspects of the series. It’s fascinating in its own way, in its disuse of Watchmen, and how its inspired further exploitation farther and farther away from the intentions of its creators. I suspect that last phrase would actually describe a lot of comics.

C’mon, surely somebody loves the Hulk.

§ January 9th, 2020 § Filed under hulk, pal plugging, swamp thing, this week's comics, watchmen § 2 Comments

So the other day I noticed on pal Brook’s Instagram that he posted a picture of his latest rare vinyl acquisition. I of course immediately asked him if I could feature it on this here comic book weblog, and he said that was fine…and also since he was going to be dropping by the store Wednesday for new comics anyway, he’d bring it in for me to see in person.

And here it is, with some new photos I took at the store once I had that record in my ungainly mitts, an original 45 RPM single of “Nobody Loves the Hulk” by the Traits, released in 1969:

This is a pristine copy, only removed from its original mailer by the seller to check its condition prior to selling. And speaking of the mailer, here it is:

And why not, here’s a pic of this classic piece of vinyl itself:

And did I play it on the in-store turntable? I wasn’t going to, as a’feared as I was to do damage to this artifact, but Brook insisted that I did, so I dood it. If you weren’t lucky enough to be there when I did, you’ll just have to replicate the experience best you can by listening to this:

Brook also forwarded this link to an interview with one of the people behind this recording. Apparently it was originally sold only through mail order ads in comic books, with only some of the 2,000 copy print run selling that way, the rest being dumped off in various places. Given the condition of Brook’s copy, this seems likely to be some kind of warehouse find, probably sitting in a box somewhere for decades after being discarded by the original owner. Who knows? But Brook got one and, um, perhaps I may have my own copy on its way now too.

Big thanks to pal Brook for bringing that in.

In other news:

This thing came out this week, which made for a nice addition to my personal collection given that the majority of the reprint material inside is taken from the Watchmen supplements for the DC Heroes Role Playing Game, the originals of which I’d sold off long ago. Thus, it’s nice to have them again.

Also reprinted therein are the entries for the Watchmen and related from Who’s Who in the DC Universe (and given the publication of Doomsday Clock, they really are in the DC Universe!), plus the covers for said Who’s Who issues, as well as material from Amazing Heroes and a Dave Gibbons cover for The Comics Journal.

Most hilariously, it includes that bonkers Rorschach appearance in The Question #17. I mean, sure, why not.

Turns out, when asking longtime customer and fellow Swamp Thing afficionado, and Watchmen and Planet of the Apes expert Rich Handley if he needed a copy…turns out, he was actually consulted regarding content for this book! He was asked what extra Watchmen stuff should be included that hadn’t already been offered in reprint form elsewhere…and I’m presuming whoever it was at DC asking this already knew about Question #17 so I won’t blame Rich for that. Anyway, due to changes in editors and whatnot, Rich didn’t seem to get a credit or even a “thank you” inside (at least, I couldn’t find one in the tiny print, given my ailing eyeballs) so just mentally add his name in there when you’re reading it. Okay? Okay!

Also, in other other news:

Also out this week is Swamp Thing The Bronze Age Vol. 2:

I didn’t really pay much attention to the original solicitation for this book. I just figured “ah, it’s just reprinting that big ol’ Swamp Thing omnibus I already bought, I don’t need this,” but reader, How Wrong I Was. It includes a lot of material not in the big ol’ hardcover…enough material that I probably should have passed on it and just waited for the paperbacks. It has the Challengers of the Unknown issues with Swampy and Deadman, it has the DC Comics Presents and Brave and the Bold team-ups.

Most importantly, it has all extant material related to the unpublished #25 from the original series! Now, I already had copies of the pencil and inked interior pages included here, but this volume also contains pencil roughs for other pages, the script, a paste-up of the letters page for that issue(!), and even the inked-and-logoed cover! Pretty amazing. I’d kinda hoped they had enough of this issue done that they could have released it as one of DC’s currently “facsimile” reprint line, a “reprint” of a #25 that never was, but looks like it wasn’t as finished as I’d thought. Ah, well. But this is great to have, finally.

Now, if we can get DC to reprint the finished pages ‘n’ script from that pulled “Swamp Thing Meets Jesus” story should they ever get around to collecting the stories from that immediate era…that’d be somethin’.

And frankly, I don’t have the memory to do any “decade” lists.

§ December 30th, 2019 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, watchmen § 3 Comments

Every year around this time I think “I should really do a year-end review,” since I haven’t done one on this site since…probably 2005, I’m guessing without looking to see if I’m right? Anyway, it’s been a while, and the reason I don’t do it is mostly because…well, because I feel limited in direct experience with the vast array of comics that come out each year. Probably a strange thing for a guy what owns a funnybook store to say, but “ordering, racking, and selling” ain’t the same as “reading,” and I feel like I can’t put my dime down on “THE BEST COMIC OF THE YEAR” when my actual reading experience is limited to the handful of comics I’ve mananged to consume over the previous twelve months.

And especially this past year, where (as perhaps you may have heard whispers of in the dark alleys and not heard me complain about nearly daily on this site) I’ve had problems with my vision. My keeping up with the new comics, which had already fallen a bit behind due to my reading more slowly due to all this stuff, pretty much stopped entirely sometime in April. I managed to read a comic here and there, sometimes with some difficulty (I read at least one issue of Doomsday Clock with a large magnifying lens), but mostly I’ve been just letting things pile up.

I said “until recently” because as my vision has become more or less stable-ish in the last couple of months, I’ve been going through my stacks, pulling runs of books and just reading them straight through from where I left off ’til today. As such, I’m caught up on the Superman books, Immortal Hulk, Justice League, Event Leviathan, and, yes, Doomsday Clock. Oh, and the Tales from the Dark Multiverse comics, too, which I probably like more than I should. Thus, I’m making some progress, slowly but surely. Oh, and I’m caught up on the Legion of Super-Heroes reboot, having just read the first two issues of the new series Sunday evening. (Not quite sold on it yet but we’ll see where it goes.)

So as you see, I don’t have quite the pool from which to draw…not exactly a wide range there. I’ve got a lot of other stuff I want to read set aside, but at the very least I’m trying to keep up with those titles so I don’t get even further behind.

Moral of the story: take care of your eyeballs, folks.

Of course it occurs to me that I can do some kind of year-end thingie just from a retail perspective, and I suppose the biggest trend of the year I’ve noticed is more speculation (apparently driven by certain comic-investing websites and YouTube videos and such). Not that folks speculating on what comics are going to be “hot” and “expensive” and “”rare”” (that last one gets double quotation marks) is anything new, or ever really went away. It’s just that I’ve noticed a lot more of it in the past year (sometimes with no apparent rhyme nor reason). Which, you know, that’s fine, whatever you’re enjoying, but at the same time it makes things a lot more difficult to order. Asking for that variant the day before it comics out, or everyone grabbing the first issue of something, and then the second issue shows up and doesn’t sell at all. It can be a little maddening, but that’s why they pay me the big bucks. (NOTE: no big bucks are actually paid to me.)

On the other hand, a new publisher that distributes their own books directly to retailers, TKO Studios, has been working out quite well for me this year, getting their first batch at the store back in February and a new round of books in November. They’ve done well for me, they’re very convenient to order, and they’re solidly-produced items. Very nice additions to the product lines my store carries.

Oh, and so I have at least one year-end award for a specific comic, Doomsday Clock gets the award for “Best Comic Titled Doomsday Clock.” Yes, I know you’re shocked. Hopefully someday we’ll find out why they hoed this row for so long just to bring back the Justice Society of America and the Legion of Super-Heroes when current Justice League comics brought also brought back the Justice Society and current Superman comics brought back the Legion on their own.

Well, who knows, if I ever catch up maybe I’ll do a year-End Awards thing for 2019 in, I don’t know, 2023. Watch this space!

In the meantime, a couple of reminders:

Lots of folks have contributed to the GoFundMe for my old friends the Beckners, which is greatly appreciated. As I type this, they are a mere $95 away from their goal, so if you can pitch in even a little bit, that would be wonderful.

Plus, I’m still taking your predictions for the 2020 comics industry. Will it rise? Fall? Become more dumb? CHIME IN WHY DON’T YOU

Almost used a different word than “futz.”

§ December 23rd, 2019 § Filed under watchmen § 14 Comments

[SPOILERS for Doomsday Clock #12 ahead]

Last week saw the release — finally — of the last chapter of Doomsday Clock, the extremely popular sales-wise, if internetally-reviled, mini-series intermingling Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen with the mainline DC Universe. While it feels like DC was pushing this new series as being somehow on par with the original, and while it did superficially ape the look-and-feel, Doomsday Clock will probably ultimately be remembered as “hey, remember that one time DC superheroes were in a comic book that also featured full-frontal male nudity?”

Not that it wasn’t sort of fun and intriguing…the series itself, that is, not just the full-frontal male nudity, though that was sort of amusing in its own right just by how uncomfortable a fit that was with what is basically your standard superhero fare. (As the boys on War Rocket Ajax have pointed out, having Dr. Manhattan’s Lower Manhattan right there for Mary Marvel to see is…something else.)

Anyway, the “fun and intriguing” part. Right. I’ve noted (and demonstrated several times) on this site that I have an ongoing fascination with Watchmen ephemera, the mostly unsupported-by-the-creators tie-ins and exploitations of the property. Doomsday Clock, obviously, is one of those things, yet another bullet point in that long list of what Watchmen has wrought. And while I read and followed along with the story as presented, I have to admit my primary interest wasn’t so much in said story but how they told it, what decisions were made to mix what elements of each milieu and to what purpose. It was the observation of the construction of Doomsday Clock to serve whatever specific purpose it was serving that intrigued, more so than whatever plot threads were offered.

Even so, I do like the idea of “the metaverse,” the idea that the DC Universe reconstructs itself around the continual reinvention of Superman to reflect whatever time period in which he’s published…basically, I’ve been observing the construction of a comic book that itself observes the construction of the fiction in which it exists, which I can’t help but appreciate. I suspect the very same point could have been made without involving the Watchmen characters, but by grabbing remora-like onto the former series for the attention it would bring, perhaps the hope was that the results of this particular event series may have more staying power than most. It would be nice to think that this could be the last word on reboots/relaunches in the DC Universe, that, like the idea of Hypertime before it, anyone reading comics long enough to notice significant changes in continuity should just realize that the in-universe explanation is that “it’s just a thing that happens, man” and requires no more thought or finagling than that, really.

Interestingly, the story itself seems to acknowledge that may not be the case, hypothesizing future “Big Event” series in the DC Universe for decades to come (including, amusingly, at least one that involves the Marvel Universe). Implicit in these Big Events is the idea of providing more in-universe explanations for whatever is happening to the fictional universe at the time due to real-life marketing and editorial decisions…to borrow a turn of phrase from a certainly naked blue guy of some note, “nothing ever ends” — even with the metaverse explanation, more explanations will be forthcoming, regardless.

A week or so ago on the Twitters, I did a short thread about the impact of big crossover event comics at Marvel and DC. Mostly, I was pointing out that Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars promised big changes that were mostly temporary (Spidey’s black costume possibly being the most significant exception), and even those initial promises were downplayed by the writer himself. In contrast, DC’s contemporaneous Crisis on Infinite Earths promised and delivered big changes…but then spent the next decades backpedaling from what they had done, ironically making its fictional universe far more complicated and convoluted than the previous state of affairs Crisis was supposed to fix.

I wrote a bit about the big changes these series supposedly bring about a couple years into this blog, where you’ll see those same Shooter quotes again, so I don’t need to go into that in too much detail. Crisis, certainly, was the most successful in creating lasting changes, in that it pretty much futzed everything up from then ’til now, with several more series (from Zero Hour to Infinite Crisis to the one being discussed in this very post) trying to deal with its aftereffects. It would be nice if Doomsday Clock‘s “metaverse” idea held fast, changing the way we approach the way this shared universe works, accepting the changes without metatextual event series explaining why the changes, but as I said, even Doomsday Clock itself admits this is futile.

The other big change is that we now have the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Justice Society of America back, but that’s more the reestablishment of a previous status quo…a rolling-back of changes that, again, can be traced back to that original Crisis. There are also some small character bits, too, primarily to Superman’s history and supporting cast, which is fine, but the recasting of Martin Stein as a villain who deliberately created the events that brought about Firestorm kinda stick in my fanboy craw, but What Can You Do?

Possibly the biggest change is that the barrier has been breached: Watchmen characters are fair game for use in the DCU. I mean, they can’t piss off Alan Moore any more, right? I know at some point somebody probably paid some lip service to “this is an important event” and “we don’t use these characters lightly” but I’ve mentioned the idea of Rorschach Team-Up before and I think we all know it’s coming. Plus, there’s that eyeroll of an ending to this series to which someone will not be able to resist slapping together a follow-up. With Before Watchmen in 2012, and this series starting in 2017, I’m guessing Doomsday+1 Clock we can look forward to in the early-to-mid 2020s.


§ September 9th, 2019 § Filed under watchmen § 6 Comments

[SPOILERS for Watchmen ahead, if anyone needs to be warned still]

So I spent some quality Twitter time on Sunday botching an observation I had about Watchmen. Basically, what I said was that, as a counterpoint to the idea that Dr. Manhattan was the only superpowered being in the Watchmen universe, there was also that island full of psychics, also gifted with supernatural powers that don’t exist in the real world.

Couple things wrong with that. One thankfully dawned on me all by my lonesome without someone having to come in and say “DUH MIKE YOU SO STUPID.” No, not thing about psychic powers being fake, that’s totally true, but the bit of business about “island full of psychics.” It’s an island of artists recruited by Adrian “Ozymandias” Veidt to generate horrible images that the “alien” brain would be prgrammed with, and then transmit upon teleportation to its destination, adding mental trauma to the physical destruction.

Wait a second, gonna add a spoiler warning to the beginning of the post here in case anyone still hasn’t read Watchmen.

Okay, done. Anyway, that’s the deal. I tried to amend my original statement by saying brains of psychics were cloned or whatever to make the alien brain, and one of my oldest internet pals, Mr. Dan Kelly, reminded me that it was just one psychic used in the alien brainn production. Specifically, a “human sensitive,” to use the actual phrase that Veidt initially uses. Basically the same thing, since the purpose is to send out a “psychic shockwave [to kill] half the city.”

My intent, to demonstrate that Dr. Manhattan was not the only superpowered being on Earth in this fictional universe, was correct. Just the details were wrong, and to what degree of “psychics” were implied to exist. Though Veidt does reference in issue #12 (or Chapter 12) that the event will affect other sensitives for years to come, but as will be shown in a moment, he may not be the most reliable source of information. LOOK, I’M GIVING MYSELF HALF CREDIT, SO THERE.

But then there’s something I haven’t considered. Twitter pal Bob Clark had some comments about Watchmen, and the character of Adrian Veidt specifically, to which I hadn’t paid enough attention. That Veidt himself, with all his grand schemes and plans and such, his controlled manner and his poise, is just totally off his chump. Bob notes that we’re so used to Rorschach being, quote/unquote, “the crazy one,” that we overlook the fact that Ozymandias is even more so. Ultimately, as Bob says, there might not be any “psychics” at all, just Veidt, in his unbalanced state, thinking he has access to a psychic brain, to go along with all the other improbable plans he’s made.

In the text, it’s left vague enough as to whether any “psychic shockwave” actually occurred. The death total is three million, but perhaps that was caused by the very act of the teleportation event itself. On Veidt’s wall o’monitors, we hear refernces to “the insane” (which, you know, who wouldn’t be knocked off kilter by a giant freaking alien suddenly appearing in town), and about a “pregnant woman convinced her unborn child was eating her” (again, losing one’s cool in reaction to an out-there event like this wouldn’t be surprising). Anyway, just trying to say, Bob could be right, maybe Veidt just believed psychics were a thing, and the actual physical element of this plan was enough to cause the mental trauma being reported.

Or maybe psychics are a thing here, because comic books. I mean, not trying to be a debunker or anything, just found Bob’s interpretation interesting and worth considering, particularly in the context of what this says about Veidt’s own state of mind.

There’s also the point made in the story (again, by Veidt, so take it as you will) that the psychic’s brain that was used for the “alien” was made “bigger and more powerful” by his science guys, so who knows what they did to it to make it generate the effect (not necessarily psychic, but perhaps something sufficiently physically disrupting to nearby brains) that could injure or kill. Again, despite the real world trappings of the series, it’s still a comic book, and the ol’ “comic book science” card is in play here.

Thanks, Bob, for the interesting thoughts on Watchmen. Always glad to see it can still stir up conversation after all this time!

By the way, the psychic’s name is given as “Robert Deschains,” in case you need it for your next trivia contest.

• • •

What brought all this on was commenter Randal observing

“Wait…that was a year before…did…did Watchmen copy Squadron?!?”

And yes, there are some similarities, particularly in the short-version high-concept description of “what if SUPERHEROES were REAL!?!?” But these are definitely two different entities, with varying agendas and executions, and I’m pretty sure Watchmen was being developed without any knowledge of Squadrons Surpreme‘s existence. If anything, I’d say Alan Moore took more inspiration from the political/social implications of his own Marvelman stories, not to mention the novel Super Folks.

Plus, let’s not forget that the idea of “superheroes in the real world” was an idea that had been floating around in comics for a while, not just the idea of what the very existence of superheroes do to the world around them, but simply “what would an actual real life superhero be like?” Not nearly to the extent of Squadron Surpreme or Watchmen, of course, but it was there. Superheroes tackling issues beyond, say, punching Kanjar Ro in the nose for the 80th time…pretty much the entire Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow was this very thing, talking on drugs, overpopulation, pollution, etc.

The shared Marvel Universe was founded on a version of this, with heroes existing in real cities (primarily New York) instead of invented places like Metropolis or Gotham City. Even little things like Peter Parker catching a cold but still having to go out and fight crime as Spider-Man, or worrying about money, or worrying about how superheroing is impacting his normal life…all humanizing problems presented in a superhero context that directly address the issue of “what would doing this sort of thing actually do to someone’s life?”

A long time ago, on this very site, I noted that the very act of putting actual human beings into the costumes and acting out the stories made the 1960s Batman TV show just as much as deconstruction of the genre as anything Watchmen did.

And even further back…that Wikipedia lnk to Super Folks mentions Moore admitting inspiration from the Mad Magazine parody “Superduperman,” itself a relatively savage demolishing of superhero tropes. And there’s the issue of All-Star Comics where the Justice Society of America addresses the topic of disabled veterans.

And, look, there are countless other examples and I can probably spend all day typing them in here. But the point is…as a medium for expression, of course comics, even superhero comics, are going to try to make their stories more relevant and relatable to real world issues. Sure, having two 12-part “maxi-series” at around the same time dealing with the same sort of thing, kinda sorta, was unusual timing, but more coincidental than anything else. Just sort of the natural outcome of what had come before. Both series were above and beyond what we’d seen in the past, of course, but not entirely without antecedent.

“Destruction of the Comic Book Universe” is a pretty good name.

§ June 26th, 2019 § Filed under watchmen Comments Off on “Destruction of the Comic Book Universe” is a pretty good name.

So there I was, just searching the term “comic book” on the Amazon Music app, as one does, when this came up:

Now I realize this may not be new to some of you, but given that my musical awareness pretty much had an expiration date of sometime in the early 1990s, this 2015 release from Jahmbi featuring a design inspired by Watchmen was a surprise to me.

Their Facebook page describes their sound as “METAL (Experimental),” and you can see just how experimental by trying a sample here. You may want to keep your speakers turned down low until you can gauge the volume of what is about to ensue.

Anyway, just one more thing to note in the ongoing list of strange Watchmen ephemera.

This is the first actual physical comic book I’ve read in nearly six weeks.

§ May 31st, 2019 § Filed under this week's comics, watchmen § 4 Comments

[SPOILERS for Doomsday Clock #10]

So in the new issue of Doomsday Clock is how it introduces the idea that the various continuity shifts in the DC Universe are not only Superman-centric, but said shifts also affect the multiverse at large. Explicitly stated at last is the idea that Dr. Manhattan, as we’d figured, is responsible for the recent “Rebirth” continuity changes, as he tests out the nature of the DC Universe.

This idea of “the metaverse” (as it’s called) is a weird and interesting one, which reminds me to some extent of “Hypertime.” As you may recall, Hypertime was DC’s previous attempt at created an in-universe explanation for the various continuity boondoggles that crop up in comics, particularly since Crisis on Infinite Earths (itself created to streamline the DC Universe and reduce continuity issues, ironically enough). Hypertime was a thing where changes/glitches/inconsistencies occurred due to the intermingling of the various timelines of the DCU, basically a way of saying “don’t worry so much about stuff, just enjoy the story.” It was maybe too subtle a distinction, as eventually, as I recall, it eventually just became “here are parallel Earths again!” and I don’t know that the idea of Hypertime was cropped up much in recent years.

Anyway, we don’t have the full story yet as to why the DC Universe, or “Metaverse,” does this, outside of Manhattan’s own interference. Maybe Geoff Johns is going to bring Hypertime back in this. Wouldn’t put it past him. I do like how it’s centering on Superman, and I think it is, as I said, an interesting idea. It’s just a shame it’s being used in a series that’s (if you’ll pardon the expression) doomed to be a footnote in the history of the original Watchmen graphic novel, a curiosity that will be discussed mostly in terms of “…yeah, they actually did that comic.”

Don’t get me wrong…I’m enjoying it, sometimes on its own terms, sometimes as the off-model exploitation of a seminal, and ultimately standalone, work. But, like the “Before Watchmen” comics from some years back, like the HBO series that’s coming, like that big-budget movie, it’ll be regarded as some strange offshoots that surround the original, but never touch it.

Should also note, in fairness, Alan Moore probably would have had the Question say “Good question,” too.

§ March 6th, 2019 § Filed under this week's comics, watchmen § 7 Comments

[maybe some SPOILERS for Doomsday Clock #9 ahead)

I keep telling myself I have another deep-dive post on the whole Doomsday Clock thing, as a follow-up to this entry (and a bit more here) but it never really coalesces around much more of a center than “man, are you seeing this?” which, oddly enough, is sort of the tone of Doomsday Clock itself. “Man, are you seeing Batman fighting Rorschach? Man, are you seeing DC superheroes using swears?” You know, like that.

Issue #9, due out at your finer funnybook emporiums this week, is sort of the ultimate expression of that, where we finally get what we paid that admission price to see. It’s the DC Universe Super-Pals versus Dr. Manhattan, and I’d be lying if I said this isn’t exactly what I wanted from this comic book. I know they’re trying to say some heavy stuff about the political and society impact of superheroes in the DC Universe, a somewhat less subtle mirroring of one of the themes, itself not so subtly expressed in Watchmen. And they’re leaning hard on the anti-hero sentiment (again, as seen in the older series, and also, I’ve read Legends, thanks). And yes, we’ve got the President in here, too…we don’t see his face, but it’s Trump, tying these shenanigans to the here and now, versus the inherent weirdness of seeing Nixon as President in the original’s time frame of the late 1980s.

Hmmm…didn’t mean to do a whole “Watchmen is like this, but Doomsday Clock is like this” thing there, but it’s pretty much hard to avoid when discussing a series that on a very surface level is aping its inspiration while trying to shoehorn the format into a milieu for which it wasn’t really suited. The trappings are all there, the art is quite nice, it remains, as I’ve written before, oddly compelling almost despite itself, but it doesn’t feel right.

It certainly succeeds in not being like pretty much anything else DC has ever published…or it could be exactly like material DC has published, with characters forced to conform to a structure for which they weren’t intended. Even Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, as different from the usual comic book mold as it was, still felt like a natural extension of what had come before. Doomsday Clock feels like having your Star Wars action figures fight your Micronauts toys. Yeah, you bet it’s fun, but clearly the two lines were never really designed to be compatible.

I’m still interested…I’m looking forward to seeing the metatextual hoops the series jumps through where the Watchmen property is being used to explain DC’s real world New 52/Rebirth publishing initiatives (which, while not a fan of how we got to this point with a surfeit of reboots/relaunchs, I still contend is a clever aspect of the Doomsday Clock project as a whole). And, as a longtime Superman fan, I am very curious about Dr. Manhattan’s connection to that particular bit of DC’s continuity changes (hinted at very briefly, but More on That Next Time, I take it).

In conclusion, it’s all been worth it just for Guy Gardner is this issue.

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