|Creator:||Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons|
|Date(s):||September 1986 – October 1987 (comic series); 2009 (film)|
|Medium:||graphic novel, live-action film|
|Country of Origin:||United States|
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Watchmen is the name of a 1980s graphic novel, the 2009 film adaption, and the 2019 HBO series that begins approximately 30 years after the events of the graphic novel.
The graphic novel was published as a series of twelve issues from September 1986 - October 1987 and later published in a collected edition. It is written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. It is widely recognised as being very influential and in fuelling the postmodern style of comic writing with deconstructed heroes and political plots. The comic is driven by the political climate in which it was created, focusing on the fear and risk of nuclear armageddon. It is written in Alan Moore's highly complex style and richly illustrated with many hints and plot points placed in the visuals, making it interesting for fans who like to analyse and explore such intertextuality. It also has a meta sub-plot of the state of comics in a world where there are dubious heroes and thus superhero comics never took off, and thus takes the exploration of being an AU into territory that's fascinating for creators of fanworks, particularly AUs
It is considered one of the great classics for comic fans and was part of popularising the smiley, which was used, with a splatter of blood, as a logo for the novel. It was also a huge part of boosting writer Alan Moore into comic writing fame and creating his fan following.
Mayfair Games published two Watchmen adventure modules and a sourcebook for their role-playing game, DC Heroes. Alan Moore both contributed some content and approved the use of his characters, so especially for older fans, the information included is considered canonical despite some differences in chronology.
Both adventure modules were published in 1987 and were written with direct help from Moore as when the authors began to write only a few issues of the comic had been published. The first module was called Who Watches the Watchmen? and was set pre-Keene Act. Dave Gibbons contributed original artwork. Of particular interest to fans were the included heroes' statistics.
The second module was called Taking Out the Trash and is set during the 1968 Republican Convention. Included with the second module was a pullout book containing an essay co-written by Alan Moore (The World of the Watchmen), Veidt’s Plan for World Peace and Unification, and Watchmen Chronology: 1938-1985.
The Watchmen Sourcebook was published by Mayfair Games in 1990. Unlike other sourcebooks for DC Heroes, the Watchmen Sourcebook was assembled like a scrapbook, deliberately echoing the supplementary material included at the back of the comic issues.
In 2009, a film based on the novel opened in cinemas. It was directed by Zack Snyder and was both anticipated and the cause of much worry amongst fans, chiefly because of the doubt that the rich work of the graphic novel could be translated to the relatively short format of film.
The film deviates from the graphic novel in several respects, most notably the ending and the portrayal of the character's abilities. The altering of the cataclysmic event at the end from a psychic squid to nuclear blasts is controversial among fans, though the impact on the universe remains the same in both versions. Snyder also chose to portray the characters as more physically competent than in the graphic novel. The film employed wire work and visual effects in order to have martial art style fight scenes, one of Snyder's trademarks. Other critiques included the triteness of the soundtrack, especially the use of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" over an extended sex scene with Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre II, and the unironic and unnuanced portrayal of Rorschach.
The release of the film sharply increased the number of fanworks and introduced more members to the fandom.
In The Question #17 (June 1988), Vic Sage reads Watchmen on a flight and decides to emulate Rorschach in tracking down his criminals. His application of Rorschach's methods ends with him nearly dying in a snowstorm. It includes classic one-liners like "What would Rorschach do?" and Sage's famous "last words," "Rorschach sucks."
The rights to Watchmen are owned by DC, not Alan Moore or Dave Gibbons, a fact that has given rise to much acrimony in the past and is parodied in the comic, Watchmensch (March 2009).
The Multiversity #4, Pax Americana (November 2014) is an homage to Watchmen using the original Charlton Comics characters and contemporary issues like international terrorism instead of nuclear annihilation.
In 1985, at the height of Watchmen's popularity, Moore and Gibbons floated the idea of a prequel to Watchmen focused on the Minutemen. That project never came to fruition, but in 2012 DC Comics decided to create a series of prequels using other artists and authors called Before Watchmen (often abbreviated by fans as BW).
There were eight limited series and one one-shot. The titles were Before Watchmen: Minutemen (six issues), Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre (four issues), Before Watchmen: Comedian (six issues), Before Watchmen: Nite Owl (four issues), Before Watchmen: Ozymandias (six issues), Before Watchmen: Rorschach (four issues), Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan (four issues), Before Watchmen: Moloch (two issues), and Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill (one-shot). Not including the unpublished one-shot Before Watchmen: Epilogue, there were 37 issues total.
Before Watchmen was widely panned in the fan community, partially out of solidarity with Moore who called the project "completely shameless", and stated he was not interested in monetary compensation, but rather “What I want is for this not to happen."
In 2017, DC Comics announced there would be a twelve issue crossover comic written by Geoff Johns in which the characters of Watchmen would become integrated into the main DC universe as part of DC Rebirth.
The first issue was heavily promoted with gifts of pancake mix and syrup to influential reviewers and a trailer on Youtube that was just a video of pancakes, leading to the fandom joke that pancakes are the new beans.
A nine episode tv series based on the events of the graphic novel was announced in early 2019. Damon Lindelöf directed and many of his authorial trademarks were present in the show.
Set in present day Tulsa, Oklahoma and past New York City and Vietnam, the show attempts to show the state of the world 34 years after the end of the graphic novel. The only characters from the graphic novel to appear in the present day are Laurie Blake (Juspeczyk), Adrian Veidt, and Dr. Manhattan. Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis feature in flashbacks.
References in Other Media
One of the most popular references to the forced expansion of the Watchmen universe is a throw away gag in The Simpsons episode Husbands and Knives (19x07, November 18, 2007), in which Milhouse asks Alan Moore to sign his copy of Watchmen Babies in V for Vacation. This played on the knowledge of fans that Moore had famously lost control of his DC Comics properties and his opposition to further comics that diluted the original's messages.
Poorly thought out additions to canon are often shorthanded by fans as "Watchbabies."
MAD Magazine published multiple spoofs called "Botchmen." The first was a six-page comic distributed at San Diego Comic Con 2008. It had little impact in the fan community as its main points of parody (Dr. Manhattan's omniscience, minor characters' breaking of the fourth wall to discuss parallelism, and the inherent flaws of Ozymandias' plan) were considered rather toothless by community standards. The conclusion was to point out that selling the story to Hollywood would lead to a dishonoring of the source material with blatant merchandizing. The final panel is the characters begging to be the first annihilated.
MAD Magazine published a second spoof also called "Botchmen" in Issue #499 (April 2009), the month following the movie's release. It used the movie as the source material rather than the comic, but also had very little impact on the fan community despite shout-outs to the mainstream fan anger about the removal of the squid.
Watchmen fandom is not a huge place, but there are several dedicated fans out there. It is worth noting that, as many comics, it has a very expanded Wikipedia page as well as having garnered its own fanmade wiki. Archive of our Own lists fanfic for all media types as one tag and has works for several pairings and characters with no clear preference for one pairing over others. LiveJournal has several communities dedicated to fanworks of Watchmen and there's also presence on other journaling sites, proving that the fandom is still active if quite small. Communities exist both for the canon as a whole and for specific characters, though the more active ones are those that invite several kinds of works.
The Plus4chan era was characterized by the comingling of female and male fans, who were often diametrically opposed in their modes of appreciation. The key example and lightning rod for much of the controversy that ended with the Watchmen fandom banned from Plus4chan plus was the treatment of Rorschach. Many male fans read Rorschach as a heroic character who fulfilled their Randian ideals. However, very few of these male fans were creating art, although what little was being produced centered around Laurie (Silk Spectre II). Most art was being produced by female fans and it lampooned Rorschach or highlighted a reading of him as a repressed homosexual.
Plus4chan was the incubator for most of the Rule 63 (genderswap) versions of the main cast and the formalizing of their fan naming conventions. This was an area of art that was popular with both female and male fans. However, frictions increased between male fans who saw themselves as fans of the original comic and newer mostly female fans over the proliferation of homosexual pairings in art, which the male fans saw as cluttering up their /pco/ board with content they did not want. Eventually, /coq/ was created and the female fans mostly self segregated to that board.
The banning of the fandom from Plus4chan is linked in the fandom's mind to two drawing posted fairly close together which preceded the blanket ban. The first is known in fandom circles as Accidentally the whole bottle, Daniel and the second is referred to as Tub Adrian. Accidentally the whole bottle, Daniel is a lovingly colored drawing by Cat Bountry of a mostly naked Rorschach making a phone call with the bottom of a green coke bottle visible in his bottom. The first line of text actually read, "Whole Coke bottle, Danielle. Accidentally, a whole coke bottle."
Tub Adrian has been scrubbed from the internet by its artist, Stromphe, who left the fandom in guilt after the Plus4chan banning. As best remembered by fandom elders, Tub Adrian was a doodle of Adrian defecating into his own mouth and talking about eating corn earlier. By the 2009 release of the film, the fandom had memorialized this with the saying, "We do not talk about Tub Adrian."
The Watchmen fandom was formally kicked off Plus4Chan on October 22, 2009 by The Dude von Doom who locked down the threads and posted a screed which included a homophobic slur and concluded with the bolded phrase "get the fuck out." Most of the Plus4chan community migrated to Livejournal for the next stage of the fandom's history.
Main article: Watchmen Kinkmeme
The first Watchmen kink meme was established September 9, 2008 on spam_monster's Livejournal. By the time of the ban from Plus4Chan, the Watchmen kink meme was on its third iteration. Major themes and fanon that originated on the kink meme were owlbbs (pronounced "owl babies") and Dan Dreiberg as the fandom bicycle to project outrageous kinks on.
On the week of March 1, 2009, Livejournal chose to "spotlight" the community in recognition of the opening of the film. Before the publicity, the community consisted of 324 members. By March 4th, the community had grown to over 500 members, and by March 16th, the original moderator was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of posts and placed the community on hold. By the next day, four more mods had been created and community guidelines had been hammered out.
On November 6, 2009, two weeks after the Plus4chan blanket ban, serenity_winner handed over ownership of the community to ook due to lack of time to devote to managing a community of over 1800 members.
Although no longer active as a Livejournal community, Watchdom and "Welcome to Watchdom" are still used by fans today to reference themselves and to welcome new members.
The Watchmen pchat (paint chat) was well established by December 19, 2008. The current Watchmen pchat is hosted by ook.
Paint chat is a real time drawing space with a chat box at the bottom. A host is needed to set up the chat room and art only persists for 24 hours. A sped up replay of the art drawn so far would play when users joined the chat. Using this replay function to create a motion comic was one popular way to take advantage of the limitations of the platform. Since your chat log was deleted when you exited or when you were "kicked" from the chat, many people copy-pasted fic and conversations to their personal Livejournal or to documents to save them. Art had to be screenshotted to be preserved.
The Watchmen Pchat Gallery, a Livejournal to archive Pchat output was created on February 13, 2010 by radishface to deal with the inherent limitations of drawing art on an ephemeral platform.
There was a resurgence in use of the Pchat after its existence was shared on the Tumblr blog Texts from the Owlship on May 21, 2012. This period of renewed use of the platform lasted about a year and tapered off around the end of May 2013. This period coincided with the publishing of Before Watchmen, so often people would gather on Wednesdays to liveblog their reactions or lampoon moments in the released comics by redrawing them to emphasize their inherent humor.
A common way to break the ice and warm up on the pchat was to draw Dr. Manhattan's disembodied penis.
Fandom Special Events
- January - JanuRory was added as part of the full calendar attempt in the Discord server in August 2019
- March - OzyMarchdias created by jeremyjohnirons; jeremyjohnirons, droil and other artists pledged draw at least one Adrian Veidt a day was the first special month established circa 2010
- May - Hollis Mayson was added as part of the full calendar attempt in the Discord server in August 2019
- June - June Osterman was added as part of the full calendar attempt in the Discord server in August 2019
- August - Nite Owl-gust was added as part of the full calendar attempt in the Discord server in August 2019
- September - Silk Spectember was added to the calendar for symmetry in March 2019
- November 2 - Squid Day, the day the squid was teleported into New York
- December - some sort of art/fic swap is usually arranged although it has borne various different names
Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias)
- Adrian Veidt is often speculated to be gay, due to a note made in Rorschach's journal in the graphic novel and the presence of a folder labeled "Boys" on his computer in the movie.
- Adrian Veidt's bionic arm is an in-joke similar to the Bielefeld Conspiracy where older members of the fandom share edits of the graphic novel purporting to be of Adrian's robotic arm. The joke began around 2012 when young fans who had only seen the movie discovered a wiki for a long running roleplay and took to Tumblr en masse to decry the movie's erasure of Veidt's disability. Initially the roleplay author, meganphntmgrl, would go around messaging younger fans to disabuse them of this notion, but as of 2017 she has given up and has embraced the conspiracy theory.
Daniel Dreiberg (Nite Owl II)
- Daniel Dreiberg is Jewish is a common fanon based on Alan Moore's unfamiliarity with Jewish names in America. While Moore intended Dreiberg to be a German-American Calvinist, the combination of his name and living in New York made most American fans code him as Jewish. This is a subset of the fan theory that any and all of the Watchmen characters can be read as Jewish.
- The generally agreed upon Rule 63 name is Danielle Dreiberg.
Laurie Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre II)
- The generally agreed upon Rule 63 name is Laurence.
Walter Kovacs (Rorschach)
- Rorschach is obsessed with beans is a fanon based on his eating a can of cold beans in the graphic novel.
- Rorschach is addicted to sugar cubes is a fanon based on a close up on his taking sugar cubes during his visit to Dan's house.
- This is sometimes generalized into Rorschach having an oral fixation.
- Rorschach stinks is a fanon based on the comments of the cops during his arrest after the bottle of Nostalgia in his pocket breaks.
- Fic that focuses on his unappealing hygiene often short hands him as hobo!schach.
- A particular interest and focus of the fandom is on bathing.
- The generally agreed upon Rule 63 name is Wanda Kovacs, although Wanda Kovacs is also used also in works in which Walter's relationship with women in explored in light of him having a twin sister, Wanda.
- Rorschach's fursona or daemon is commonly depicted as a possum disguised as a terrifyingly large rat.
The main output of Japanese fans was centered around the release of the 2009 movie. Doujinshi were produced and sold between 2008 and 2011. Many English speaking fans collected the doujinshi or their scans, despite not being able to read them.
The main circles (groups) producing Watchmen doujin were INK (13 works), Flying Black Knight (5 works), シロクロサンカ (Shirokurosanka, 3 works), and BONNIECLYDE (2 works). Other circles producing at least one doujin were ROTTEN LABEL, ヒガキ (Higaki), and 色*色 (Iro*Iro).
- Something Awful made Watchmen the subject of their Photoshop Phriday on August 12, 2004. The most enduring meme to come out of the ten page thread was "Free Fire!" a phrase uttered by two delighted policemen as they are set on fire by Rorschach's homemade flamethrower.
- Texts from the Owlship was a Texts From Last Night Meme Tumblr started in 2011 and abandoned in 2014.
- Watchmen Photomanips was established on Tumblr on June 24, 2011 as Makes Doorway Look Haunted. The name of the blog was changed on September 11, 2012 and it continued updating with new content on Tumblr through August 11, 2016 when the author stated she was having trouble coming up with new ideas that she hadn't already done before.
- How Rorschach Stole Christmas is a dramatic reading by Gazellington of the poem of the same name authored by anons on Plus4chan's /co board. The dramatic reading of the parody poem was wildly popular when it was published on December 21, 2008 and by December 24th it had escaped the Watchmen fandom and was featured on Gizmodo. Rorschach as the Grinch remains a popular fanart motif around the holidays.
- Who Watches the Watchmen? is the first and most famous of five short comics by KC Green. It was published in early March 2009. The humor relies on fans recognizing fanon catchphrases like Rorschach looking down and saying "No."
- Several parodies of Watchmen where the characters have been replaced by newspaper comic strip exist:
- Ombudsmen is a parody by Scott Kurtz and Dylan Meconis. It ran from March 2-6, 2009. It used the Watchmen plot to comment on the staleness of legacy comics.
- Sunday Strip Watchmen is a parody by Andrew George. It was originally published to Tumblr on August 11, 2015. It relied on the juxtaposition of the sanitized image of newspaper comic characters in faithfully redrawn Watchmen panels for its humor.
- In a similar vein El Cid's SpongeMen SquareWatch mashes up Watchmen with SpongeBob SquarePants. It was released February 18, 2014.
- Rorschach Love by Tom Smith is a filk love song comically contrasting the fondness fans have for the misanthropic Rorschach released on January 1, 2009.
- Watchmen Rap Video (1985, VHS) (alternately known as Watch It by Luscious C and DJ Fist) is a parody rap song purporting to be ripped from an old VHS tape by a fan in February 2009.
- Who's Gonna Watch the Watchmen is a We Didn't Start the Fire parody that retells the entire plot of the graphic novel released April 2009.
- The Ballad of Hollis Wadsworth Mason, Jr. by Franz Nicolay is a introspective song about the titular character packed with references to the graphic novel released on October 13, 2009.
- Watchmen by MC Lars featuring Mega Ran, MC Frontalot, Quelle Chris, Miss Eaves and Schaffer the Darklord, is a hip hop song introducing the Watchmen main cast released March 15, 2019 in advance of the HBO series although not affiliated with it.
Vids and Animation
- Saturday Morning Watchmen by Harry Partridge is a hand drawn cartoon pretending to an old VHS tape rip of the opening sequence to a sanitized children's cartoon version of Watchmen. It was first posted on March 4, 2009 on Newgrounds. Saturday Morning Watchmen went viral and was popular in mainstream circles due to the imminent release of the film. Dave Gibbons had seen it as of August 2009, and stated he "loved it."
- Watchmen: Midnight is a feature length fan edit that restructured the narrative of the 2009 film according to the original comic books, making extensive changes to the action and dialogue of characters. It incorporated scenes from the mock-documentary "Under the Hood" in order to approximate the backstory that was originally provided by false documents in the comics, and it replaced several instances of music throughout the film. This fan edit also included new color grading that reduced the blue saturation of the image and normalized skin tones. In October 2011, Watchmen: Midnight was awarded "Fanedit of the Month" by the members of Fanedit.org. A revised version of this fan edit screened at Starfest on April 19, 2013.
- Watchmen fic at Archive of our Own
- Watchmen Fanfic Directory at LiveJournal
- Watchdom - a community for all things Watchmen at LiveJournal
- Watchmenfic at LiveJournal
- Watchmen Slash - a community at LiveJournal
- Quis Custodiet - a community at InsaneJournal
- Watchmen - a community at DreamWidth
- Watchmen Kink Meme
- Watchmen page at Wikipedia
- Watchmen on IMDb
- Itzkoff, Dave. "DC Plans Prequels to Watchmen Series". The New York Times. February 1, 2012. Retrieved on February 1, 2012.
- "SUP GUYS". Inaugural Watchdom mod post. Accessed May 7, 2018.
- "HAPPY MARCH EVERYONE". Watchdom Mod Post recognizing the spotlighting by Livejournal. Accessed May 7, 2018.
- "OKAY KIDS, THE HONEYMOON IS OVER." Post by original mod placing Watchdom on hold. Accessed May 7, 2018.
- "A STRONGER LOVING WORLD". New community guidelines laid out for Watchdom. Accessed May 7, 2018.
- "I for one welcome our new overlord". Post by serenity_winner on handing over ownership of Watchdom. Accessed May 7, 2018.
- Tweet by Brandon Graham. June 20, 2012.
- Tweet by Brandon Graham. October 5, 2016.
- Something Awful's Watchmen Photoshop Friday. August 12, 2004.
- Wikipedia article on Saturday Morning Watchmen. Accessed May 7, 2018.