Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On those Watchmen-related drawings that showed up on the Internet on Christmas

(Please note: This is not one of them).

As you've probably heard about by now, gossip-monger Rich Johnston, who has been talking about rumors of a comics project of some kind expanding on the characters and universe of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' 1986-1987 series Watchmen for years now, posted a drawing of the character Nite-Owl by Joe and Andy Kubert and a drawing of The Comedian by J.G. Jones online, offering them as evidence of the project's existence.

Several other sites linked back to Johnston's post (the first I saw were at Robot 6 and Comics Alliance) before all were hit with cease-and-desist requests from DC. As some have noted, including Blog@Newsarama's Graeme McMillan and, the wording of DC's communication with the various sites seems to confirm the existence of the project (and, as The Beat notes, means someone at DC must really, really not like the project...that, or Johnston either hacked or "hacked", as in guessed, into DC's server to get the images for himself).

You know what's weird about DC attempting some sort of further exploitation of the Watchmen characters? I mean, aside from everything else that's obviously super-weird about it?

Over the last few years, DC has invested considerable effort and resources into new comics featuring characters or groups of characters owned by other publishers or entities, characters whose temporary acquisition by DC was announced with great fanfare.

And none of these characters from beyond the traditional DC Universe managed to take off in any significant way with either DC's core customers or the direct market in general.

Think Will Eisner's Spirit (beneficiary of not one but two volumes of a solo book), the Milestone Media characters (of whom Static is the only one appearing in a book), the Red Circle characters, Doc Savage and The THUNDER Agents. The creative success of the comics to feature any of the above can be debated, but, from a financial stand-point, from a sales stand-point, from a simple "Is this a big deal? Is it anything approaching a big deal?" stand-point, they were all pretty dismal failures.

The people who read DC comics don't seem terribly interested in reading about non-DC Comics characters being published by DC Comics, whether those characters are integrated into the DC Universe shared setting proper, or are in their own little universe or publishing line.

And in the above examples—The Spirit, Doc Savage, the THUNDER Agents, the Milestone and Red Circle characters—comics readers seemed mostly neutral to the idea of DC publishing new books featuring them. There wasn't any sort of virulent opposition to the very idea of them the way that there is toward Watchmen sequels, prequels or expansions.

Chances are the very controversial nature of the project might be more than enough to counteract the opposition to it on ethical or moral grounds (or the fact that it just seems too crass for even a lot of superhero comics fans) and DC's customers' long-evident complete disinterest in any comic books featuring extra-DCU characters being published by DC. And God knows the publisher's poor track record of selling comics not featuring some variation of the characters created in their National Comics Golden Age is the least of the concerns facing a potential Watchmen 2—I would think the biggest obstacle would be finding enough comics professionals who are both talented and esteemed enough to be considered worthy of following Moore and Gibbons and willing to do so for the paycheck despite the deserved and widespread mocking and bile they will receive for it—but I still think it's really, really, really weird that DC would consider another stab at something somewhat similar to something they have had such difficulty pulling off in the last half-decade or so.

(Although I think the argument can be made that DC's readers are naturally resistant to characters from outside the original DCU, as it had formed by those Gardner Fox Justice League stories, no matter how long DC has owned them. It's not like Captain Marvel, Plastic Man, the Charlton characters or the WildStorm characters have ever received a level of prominence equal to that of even the B-Listers like Green Lantern, Flash and Wonder Woman, or C-Listers like Aquaman and Hawkman, you know?)


The League said...

We'll see what they're up to. Phil Jimenez made a comment on Twitter that made me believe he knew DC was taking solicitations for the project and didn't submit one.

Watchmen, unlike Charlton, etc... has sold a whole lot of copies. If a sequel sells even a fraction of that original number (and I see a lot of comics fans shuffling zombie-like to see what the first issues are about), its going to hit New-52-in-September-like numbers.

And, in discussing the properties that didn't work, you can lump Wildstorm's inability to draw a readership over the last 8-10 years, and DC's many, many attempts to reboot it, and now just integrating it into DC so we can't ignore it if we want to.

I am guessing this is Didio and Lee's next short term cash-grab. They won't care who the writers are on the Watchmen 2 series any more than they care about quality on the monthly books. and its kind of beside the point, so long as they sell a few comics to the morbidly curious.

googum said...

That drawing? Pretty great.