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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 umngainly 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.

Spoilers about Doomsday Clock #7 and my eyes.

§ October 1st, 2018 § Filed under eyeball, watchmen § 9 Comments

Long story short, I’ve had some recent health issues that, among other things, have been affecting my vision. No, I’m not blind or anything, but fine details and small print were suddenly out of my reach, to the point where I couldn’t read comic books (GASP!) and more importantly, couldn’t read things like, say, my weekly Diamond invoices or even the cover prices on comics. Like, even with my normal vision, I was having trouble making out cover prices set in that 2-point type some publishers like to use. But with recent events…feh.

Anyhoo, not to worry, I’ll be fine, I’m having treatments and my vision has more or less normalized. I still need real glasses, and not these dollar-store readers I’ve been depending on, but that will have to wait until one of my eyes fully heals so it can be properly tested (another long story short: I had a hemorrhage in one eye, and it’ll take time for the blood in there to be reabsorbed).

Thus, if you’ve noticed a preponderance of typos on the site of late, well, there you go. Not that life here on Progressive Ruin Isle has ever been totally relaxed and tpyo-freee, but now that my vision has recovered sufficiently improved functionality, I’m going back and noticing some egregious errors. I’ll fix ’em as I can find ’em, folks, so I appreciate your patience.

Meanwhile, this means I have a pretty good sized backlog of new funnybooks to plow through and see what everyone’s complaining about now. The thing I don’t like about DC’s biweekly schedule for some of their books is that, even though I don’t take home all that much, even a slight delay in reading the new comics, and then suddenly BAM I’m like five issues behind on The Flash or whatever. Frankly, I’ll be glad when everything gets knocked back to monthly…it’ll be so much easier to keep up. I don’t mind some biweekly books, and the way things are going, that’s where DC is basically headed anyway. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, there aren’t too many biweeklies left. Huh.

So what did I read? Why, Doomsday Clock #7, natch:

This is it, The Big One, the issue where something finally seems to kind of happen, as Dr. Manhattan at long last makes his onscreen big blue appearance after like two something years of teasing. And yes, in answer to the question everyone’s been pondering, he does present the Full Manhattany, which would have been a first, I think, for a DC comic starring their establishing superhero characters if it weren’t for, well, you know. But all in all, a good year for penises over at Detective Comics Comics.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m oddly fascinated by this series while also recognizing the issues with it. I don’t know, I feel like Doomsday Clock is totally going to Millennium it and the final issue will be the introduction of the new Watchmen superhero team with new member Tasmanian Devil and their new leader Cyborg. …Well, maybe not, but now that the can of Watchmen has been opened, seem unlikely DC will just try to shove ’em back in there.

Oh, another specific point about this issue: wasn’t one of the points about Manhattan’s character originally that he witnessed what was happening around him but couldn’t act on it, that he was “a puppet who could see the strings,” resigned to the inevitability of the actions he’d relate from the past? That the entire premise of Doomsday Clock and how it all relates to DC’s “New 52″/”Rebirth” universe(s) is based on him changing something he’s observing in “the past” (which for him is just as “present” as “the actual present” due to his unique perspective unbound by linear time) seems…a bit odd. I mean, I suppose technically one could extrapolate Manhattan’s ability to change things in the past at various points in the timeline as he experiences it, but…that seems contrary to how he’s presented in Watchmen, where he’s locked into a pattern he can’t change, only observe as he exists through it.

But then again, at the end of Watchmen he seems to be more willing to fiddle with things, so maybe “let me go into what you normies think of as ‘the past’ and futz it up a bit” could come from there. Then maybe he can dip into his own past and prevent that guy from stepping on that watch, preventing the whole accident that made him Dr. Manhattan in the first place. You know, so long as we’re low-end Quantum Leap-ing things in this joint.

So anyway, Doomsday Clock, it remains a thing. I was going to cover a few other recent books, but…well, let’s save that for next time.

In which I ramble on about a series I’m enjoying sort of despite itself.

§ February 1st, 2018 § Filed under watchmen § 9 Comments

So I haven’t really said a whole lot about Doomsday Clock beyond my “wonder how it’s gonna sell” post back in September. Well, I can tell you now, after three issues of it have been unleashed upon an unsuspecting world, that it actually is selling very well, thank you, and even the second printing of the first issue is moving briskly.

That’s all just basic, non-opinionated stuff, I realize. I haven’t really come right out and said anything specifically about the content of the series, beyond some joking around, mostly because…well, I’m a retailer. I sell these things for a living. Not that this comics blogging doodad is an official part of my store or anything, but certainly a non-zero percentage of my customers are aware that I spend a small portion of my free time typin’ funny about funnybooks here. And I’ve seen enough examples of other retailers slagging off, say, Mutant Shenanigans: Alpha on their official store blogs/online newsletters/review columns etc., and then wondering a month later “huh, Mutant Shenanigans: Alpha isn’t selling at my store…wonder why?”

Not that I plan on really slagging it all that much, but the other day I did say this on the Twitters:

“Haven’t really said much about the actual DOOMSDAY CLOCK series itself, but it’s sort of a combination of ‘woefully misguided’ and ‘absolutely fascinating’ (in that I obsess a bit over out-of-context Watchmen usage).”

There’s…a lot of meaning that can be packed into my use of the phrase “woefully misguided.” That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something that’s not entertaining in some fashion. Take, for example, Crisis on Infinite Earths, a series I like quite a lot. Sure, at the time we all probably thought it was a good idea, taking what was an overly complex/high entry cost shared universe and paring it down into something a bit more comprehensible. However, it could be argued that it turned out to be quite misguided, a stripping away and recataloging of crazy ideas and wild imagination that, in the decades since, DC Comics has been trying to undo, and in some way making it far more complex and difficult to enter than whatever problems Crisis was supposed to solve.

As such Crisis and its impact became problems mostly in hindsight, starting with small things (“whoops, we fucked up Hawkman, sorry everyone!”) and quickly ballooning into much larger issues (“oh, hey remember continuity? Here’s some more different continuity!”). Doomsday Clock‘s…quirks, shall we say, were anticipated well ahead of time. We were all watching that person in the scary movie, reaching a hand out to the door handle, while we shouted “NO, DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR!” Reasonably sure we all foresaw the inherent awkwardness of combining a singular, self-contained work by creators at the peak of their skills with a decades-old haphazardly-assembled, repeatedly rebooted, shared universe to the point of using the former as another tool to shore up the latter.

Now this is all sounding relentlessly negative, and I’m really not trying to be. As I said about the Crisis series I was using as an example, I enjoyed that comic. Outside of the nostalgic feelings I have for it, Crisis remains beautifully drawn, and a solid final “hurrah” for the DC Universe that was, before the DC Universe, of which there was no stopping them now, took over. Now, the Doomsday Clock itself I’m finding enjoyable in a weird way. As noted above, as a dealer, I’m happy with it sales and interest from my customers…I’m having people coming specifically to pick up this comic. As a responsible comics fan, I should probably be upset that the property being exploited without creator consent…yes, the work is technically DC’s but rights were dangled in front of Moore/Gibbons with no real intention of giving those rights to them so long as the comic sold.

As an irresponsible comics blogger and pop culture…observer, I guess, since “wallower” makes me sound bad…I am as I said in my tweet, “absolutely fascinat[ed]” by the Watchmen characters being exploited out of context (as in this Heroclix set, or this comic where DC-by-way-of-Charlton-Comics superhero the Question meets Rorschach). And this Doomsday Clock series, along with the two-year teasing/weaving of Watchmen material into the regular DC Universe, is sort of the ultimate “out of context” usage of the characters. Yes, it probably shouldn’t have been done. Yes, this isn’t really adding anything to the original work.

Nonetheless, seeing these characters and these situations and these attempts at aping the style and storytelling of the original remains oddly and strangely compelling, in a way that DC’s previous Watchmen event “Before Watchmen” was not. In “Before Watchmen,” the characters were working toward an endpoint, the events of Watchmen itself. The creators working on those comics couldn’t deviate too far from the paths already designed for these characters…not to say they didn’t take them in directions that could be deemed outside their original intentions, but at least they were mostly remaining within the constraints of an already-established fictional milieu.

Doomsday Clock escapes that by being “the sequel,” with all that open road ahead, and oh yeah we’re totally crossing over with Justice League characters so we’ve got, like, multiple universes to play with now. (Okay, I’m not unaware of the irony that this sounds like the opposite of my criticism of Crisis on Infinite Earths.) There’s no longer the worry about putting the pieces back in place…now they can scatter them about however they want. The fascination I mentioned before is in how this new creative team is playing with others’ toys, how they mimic what’s come before, how they change what’s been established, and so on. (You know, like superhero comics in general.) I genuinely am curious how this mixing of worlds will play out, not just plotwise but in just the simple mechanics of decisions made in putting together this event.

Even by duplicating the original’s format by including the text-heavy backmatter, you don’t get the same sense of that world-building the original worked so hard to establish. Much of what made Watchmen, aside from its deconstruction of the superhero genre, was its attention to detail, from the technological/political impact of Dr. Manhattan, to maintaining consistent physical settings (like just having the same street and building layouts from issue to issue), to little things like Dan wondering where the hell all his sugar cubes went (taken of course by Rorschach in a previous issue, and eaten by him throughout the rest of the series).

Doomsday Clock is a different animal with different purpose, and the depth of the original has been replaced mostly by trivia (“hey that guy’s daughter is Elasti-Girl from the Doom Patrol!” and other such nuggets that end up in clickbait listicles breathlessly detailing those Easter eggs “you may have missed!” somehow despite them basically being shoved in your face and captioned “THIS IS A REFERENCE TO SOMETHING”). The new series appears to be primarily about reclaiming superheroes from the legacy of Watchmen and similar descontructive attempts, in that the last two years of DC’s overarching storytelling has positioned the previous “New 52” continuity reboot as a literal attack on the DC Universe by Dr. Manhattan.

Not saying that isn’t a valid, and in its way, clever method of approaching real world publishing strategies within a fictional universe, though it strikes me as odd putting a decades-long best-selling property into an antagonistic position against their main line of books. Granted, we haven’t see the full story yet, so perhaps there’s a “redemptive” conclusion yet to come that corrects this negative portrayal. Especially if they plan on keeping any of the Watchmen characters around in the DC Universe after everything’s all said and done. (Hello, Rorschach Team-Up.)

Anyway, Doomsday Clock. Probably shouldn’t have happened, but here it is regardless. It’s a weird thing that will almost certainly end up only as a footnote in the original Watchmen‘s history. It remains, however, a crazy amalgam of a comic, not quite as Watchmen-esque as it wants to be, but tonally strange enough to not feel strictly like a DC superhero comic either. So long as it’s a one-shot thing à la that Simpsons/Family Guy crossover, which was another peculiar mixing of styles that kind of worked okay once, that’ll probably be fine. But, to repeat myself, “Hello, Rorschach Team-Up” is not a thing I said entirely facetiously.

Oh, and by the way, if Doomsday Clock takes place a year ahead in DC continuity (well, more like 18+ months ahead now that it’s gone to a bimonthly schedule), and Superman is getting his red trunks back in Action Comics #1000 (due out in just a few months), does that mean that cover to Doomsday Clock #1 pictured above is already out of date? Or, in a variation of what I suggested here, maybe instead of fighting over the trunks, Superman actually lends them to Dr. Manhattan. “Now, now, sir, you can’t go walking around Metropolis like that!”

I just kinda gave up putting “cite” tags around “Watchmen” halfway through, I was typing it so much.

§ September 1st, 2017 § Filed under watchmen § 3 Comments

I know we’re all supposed to be outraged at DC continuing to repurpose Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen, but man, I just laugh and laugh and laugh at this:

…partially for the chutzpah…well, okay, mostly for the chutzpah of DC to even do this, and partially out of my own curiosity over how it’s even going to work, and partially out of my own misguided love for weird permutations of the original story, like, say, this toaster.

And seeing this cover finally got me to put together a gag involving that title “Doomsday Clock” and its superficial similarity to a particular piece of dialogue from a page in Preacher:

Ever since Doomsday Clock was announced, I had this stupid idea in my head. And now here it is, in all of yours.

Anyway, I have no idea how I’m going to order this. Well, that’s not entirely true, I do know how I’m going to order this, I’m just not sure how it’s going to sell. With that Batman/Flash crossover “The Button” associating DC’s use of lenticular covers with “special Watchmen tie-in events,” using lenticular covers for the Mr. Oz storyline coming up in Action Comics, where the Watchmen tie-in may not be as strong as had been presumed*, may lessen the sales boost said covers may give to Doomsday Clock.

Or I’m just overthinking it. While that Mr. Oz storyline may or may not have solid ties to the overarching Watchmen thing, Doomsday Clock is totally being pushed as “SUPERMAN VERSUS DOCTOR MANHATTAN” which should drive sales to even those folks who feel like they weren’t getting enough Watchmen content in that Action story. Boy, I’m sure assuming a lot about that Action comic I haven’t read yet.

At any rate, I’m reasonably certain sales will start out strong, but 12 issues over presumably a year (or a year-and-a-half, if not more) is a long stretch to keep interest up, even in something as wildly out there as a Watchmen/DCU crossover. There’s gonna be some attrition unless there’s a big sales-driving surprise partway through, and even then, who knows. There’s the kind of comics marketplace insight that keeps my two or three readers coming back.

I was looking back at some of my old Watchmen posts on this site, and from this entry in 2010 I quoted an excerpt from a DC press release:

“However, DC comics co-publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee said, ‘Watchmen is the most celebrated graphic novel of all time. Rest assured, DC Comics would only revisit these iconic characters if the creative vision of any proposed new stories matched the quality set by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons nearly 25 years ago, and our first discussion on any of this would naturally be with the creators themselves.’”

I don’t know what conversation DC had with Gibbons about this, but I’m sure any conversation with Moore probably ended with him slamming down his rotary phone after shouting “don’t call me again!”

I am curious as to what’s going to happen once DC no longer has this Watchmen subplot running through their series and special events. Will we finally get that epic multi-part storyline teaming up current Batman with Dark Knight Returns Batman? Then again, DC just wrapped Dark Knight III, and I think they’ve threatened a IV, so that franchise is still going on. Maybe…Rōnin joins the Titans? Angie Thriller becomes a…I don’t know, Indigo Lantern? Daniel from Sandman teams up with the Justice L…oh, wait.**

* I won’t “spoil” what Mr. Oz’s reveal might be, but you can Google around and see what people are assuming. Or look here on the Tweeters where I just straight up say it, back when it was still a crazy idea and not the likely correct one.

** Yes, I know they asked Neil Gaiman. Yes, I know Sandman is technically in the DC Universe. Let me have my little joke.

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