10 Fascinating Facts About Watchmen

Amazon
Amazon

Writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen—which was released by DC Comics as a 12-issue limited series in 1986 and 1987 and eventually collected into paperback—was a radical deconstruction of the comic book medium. Instead of flawless heroics, its protagonists—including the psychotic vigilante Rorschach, the near-omniscient Doctor Manhattan, the ineffectual Nite Owl—struggle with self-doubt and personality conflicts after one of their own is murdered.

Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of Zack Snyder's 2009 movie adaptation, plus the pending arrival of an HBO series, we’re taking a look at a few things you might not know about Moore and Gibbons’s seminal work.

1. Watchmen was originally supposed to feature familiar faces.

When English writer Alan Moore (Swamp Thing) came up with the idea for a murder mystery set in the realm of costumed heroes, he drafted a proposal for DC Comics editors that used characters from Charlton Comics, a lesser-known line of titles featuring more obscure characters like Blue Beetle and the Atom that DC had recently acquired. In his pitch, Moore described the suspicious death of a Charlton hero dubbed the Peacemaker, with the Question—a blank-faced inquisitor seemingly devoid of emotion—on the case.

Fearing Moore’s story would be too damaging to established characters, DC editor Dick Giordano suggested the writer instead come up with a new cast. Though there are obvious parallels—the Question transformed into calculating detective Rorschach, with a morphing ink blot over his mask—Moore and artist Dave Gibbons soon devised a lineup that served the needs of his story while arguably becoming more famous than the heroes Moore had initially planned on using.

2. Watchmen took some design cues from Mad magazine.

Both Moore and Gibbons were interested in subverting the superhero genre in much the same way they had seen it turned upside-down in the pages of Harvey Kurtzman’s satirical MAD magazine and its "Superduperman" parody: The difference was that Moore was aiming for drama rather than comedy. For Gibbons, some of the visual tricks seen in MAD were perfect for the story they were trying to tell.

“I’d … like to say that when it comes to the kind of storytelling we did in Watchmen, we used many of the tricks Harvey Kurtzman perfected in MAD,” Gibbons told Entertainment Weekly in 2018. “The thing for instance where you have a background that remains constant and have characters walk around in front of it. Or the inverse of that, where you have characters in the same place and move the background around. We quite mercilessly stole the wonderful techniques Harvey Kurtzman perfected in MAD.”

3. The smiley face logo was a happy accident.

Watchmen smiley face graffiti
Watchmen Second Narrows graffiti

Most promotional material for Watchmen is adorned with a smiley face button with a trickle of blood to reference the death of the Comedian, the crime that sets the story in motion. The button was an addition by Gibbons after he and Moore had designed the brooding character and realized there wasn’t anything about his costume that indicated a sense of humor. Gibbons sketched in the smiley face button, which came to represent the contrast of Watchmen itself: a world of colorful heroes that masked a sinister undercurrent. The button also echoes the Doomsday Clock that appears in the comic: The blood spatter that appears on its face is in roughly the same spot as the hand of the clock that marks five minutes to midnight.

4. Alan Moore made richard nixon a character so that he didn't turn off readers.

Part of the Watchmen narrative involves a creeping and corruptive political influence. In the story, Richard Nixon is serving a fourth term as president. Moore chose Nixon because he was concerned using then-current president Ronald Reagan might turn off readers who supported the politician. “You’re not going to get much argument Nixon was scum,” Moore told Entertainment Weekly in 2005.

5. artist Dave Gibbons made sure the book had “understated genitals.”

Full-frontal nudity was not a common occurrence in comic books in the mid-1980s, but Moore and Gibbons didn’t receive any negative feedback when they decided to show genius scientist Doctor Manhattan unburdened by pants in several issues. Gibbons credited the lack of controversy to Manhattan’s “understated genitals.” By having them resemble the type of nudity seen on Greek statues, Gibbons believed people might not even notice they were staring at a blue penis—for a page or two, anyway.

6. Neil Gaiman provided some assistance.

Neil Gaiman of the television show ‘Good Omens’ speaks during the Amazon Prime Video Session of the 2019 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on February 13, 2019 in Pasadena, California
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

While writing scripts for Watchmen, Moore would sometimes phone author Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Good Omens) and ask for random bits of information. “I was his occasional research assistant,” Gaiman said in 2005. Moore asked for sources of quotes he planned to use in the book. Some came from the Bible; Gaiman eventually loaned him a book about birds from which Moore obtained a quote about owls for Watchmen #7.

7. Moore and Gibbons communicated by taxi.

Without fax machines at their disposal, Gibbons was often forced to wait for Moore to mail him script pages so he could work on illustrations. When Gibbons ran out of pages, Moore would sometimes hire a taxi driver to shuttle more of the script the 50 miles to the artist's house house.

8. Time magazine dubbed Watchmen one of the 100 best novels of the past 100 years.

When Watchmen was originally published in the mid-1980s, only faint praise was afforded to comic books, which were still perceived as fodder for juveniles. (Or juvenile delinquents.) Along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen shot a flare into popular culture signaling that comics were becoming more ambitious. In 2010, TIME Magazine agreed, citing Watchmen as one of the 100 greatest novels published since the magazine’s inception in 1923 and a “watershed” moment in the comic medium.

9. Moore felt “swindled” by DC COMICS.

In the contract for Watchmen, DC promised Moore and Gibbons that rights to the characters would revert to them a year after the book went out of print. Moore found this satisfactory at the time but soon realized the publisher had no intention of ever allowing the title to go out of circulation. He has long refused to participate in any anniversary celebrations, sequels, or other ancillary projects, even though he claimed in 2010 that DC offered him the rights to the title back if he participated in a continuation. "They offered me the rights to Watchmen back, if I would agree to some dopey prequels and sequels," Moore told WIRED in 2010. He declined.

10. The Watchmen movie could have been much different.

When Zack Snyder released Watchmen in 2009, it was met with a mixed reception—though it was likely as close to a faithful adaptation of the comic in a single feature film as anyone was likely to get. Snyder was admittedly reverential of the source material, an approach that may have escaped earlier attempts. At one point, Arnold Schwarzenegger was being considered for the role of Doctor Manhattan, and Terry Gilliam (Brazil) was set to direct.

No matter how much Snyder’s film or any future adaptations exercise fidelity, Moore has said he has no plans to see any adaptation. “My book is a comic book,” he said in 2006. “Not a movie, not a novel. A comic book.”

7 Things We Know (So Far) About Baby Yoda, the Breakout Star of The Mandalorian

© Lucasfilm
© Lucasfilm

From the moment he appeared onscreen in the closing moments of the premiere episode of the new Disney+ series The Mandalorian on November 12, the creature referred to as Baby Yoda has become an internet sensation not seen since the likes of the IKEA monkey. The Rock has displayed his affection for the cooing green infant on Instagram; a man purportedly got a tattoo of Baby Yoda holding a White Claw seltzer and insists it’s permanent; and a Change.org petition is underway demanding a Baby Yoda emoji.

That Baby Yoda has gripped the imagination of the country is no small feat, as precious little has been revealed about his origins other than that he appears to be a member of the same unnamed species as Jedi master Yoda, which has traditionally been shrouded in secrecy. More will be revealed as The Mandalorian continues its weekly run through December 27. In the meantime, here’s what we know so far about the alarmingly adorable creature canonically known as “The Child.”

1. Baby Yoda is 50 years old, but he still seems a bit behind developmentally.

Owing to the long lifespan of Yoda’s species—Yoda himself lived to be roughly 900 years old before expiring in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, set five years prior to the events of the Disney+ series—it makes sense that the “baby” in the show is the human equivalent of someone about to subscribe to AARP: The Magazine. We learn Baby Yoda’s age in the first episode, where Mando is told he’s being tasked with finding a target that age. It’s a clever bit of misdirection that sets up the climactic reveal that the bounty hunter is after an infant.

And though his habits—tasting space frogs and playing with spaceship knobs—seem developmentally accurate, child experts told Popular Mechanics that such curiosity is more in line with a 1-year-old, not the 5-year-old Baby Yoda might be analogous to in human years. He’s also not terribly verbose, putting him behind what one might expect of a person his relative age.

2. Baby Yoda is male.

After rescuing Baby Yoda from an untimely demise at the hands of bounty hunter IG-11 in the debut episode, the titular Mandalorian takes off with his young bounty to deliver him to his Imperial employer known as the Client (Werner Herzog). In episode 3, the Client receives the baby; his underling, Doctor Pershing, (Omid Abtahi) refers to the character as “him.” A pre-order page for a Mattel plush Baby Yoda also refers to the character as a "he." We have, however, seen a female member of Yoda’s species before. In 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, a green-skinned Yaddle sits wordlessly on the Jedi Council.

3. Baby Yoda’s genetics are of great interest to what’s left of the Empire.

Why was Mando sent to fetch Baby Yoda? From what we could gather in episode three, the Client was desperate to gather knowledge from the creature, with Doctor Pershing told to extract something from his tiny body. That motive has yet to be revealed, but thanks to The Phantom Menace, we know Force-sensitive individuals can carry a large number of Midi-chlorians, or cells that can attenuate themselves to the Force. One fan theory speculates that these cells can be harvested, creating people with greater capabilities to wield Jedi powers.

4. Using the Force really tires Baby Yoda out.

In episode 2, a battle-weary Mando is in real danger of being trampled by a Mudhorn, a savage beast. Channeling his (presumed) Force abilities, Baby Yoda is able to dispatch of the threat, but the effort seems to exhaust him, and he spends most of the rest of the episode sound asleep.

5. Baby Yoda might become a Jedi Master in a hurry.

Despite his infantile status, it seems like it won’t be long, relatively speaking, before Baby Yoda achieves the Zen-like mindset and formidable skills of a Jedi Master. It’s been pointed out that Yoda achieved that rank at the age of 100, at which point he began training Jedis. That would mean Yoda’s species is capable of some pretty rapid development between the ages of 50 and 100.

6. Werner Herzog has a soft spot for Baby Yoda.

Herzog, the famously irascible director of such films as 2005’s documentary Grizzly Man and 1972's Aguirre: The Wrath of God, portrays the man known as the Client, out to capture Baby Yoda. Interacting with the puppet on set was apparently a source of amusement for the part-time actor, who sometimes addressed Baby Yoda as though he were not made of rubber. "One of the weirdest moments I had on set, in my life, was trying to direct Werner with the baby,” series director Deborah Chow told The New York Times. “How did I end up with Werner Herzog and Baby Yoda? That was amazing. Werner had absolutely fallen in love with the puppet. He, at some point, had literally forgotten that it wasn’t a real being and was talking to the child as though it was a real, existing creature.”

Herzog was so emotionally invested in Baby Yoda that he reacted harshly when The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau and producer and director Dave Filoni spoke of wanting to shoot some scenes without the puppet so they could add him as a computer-generated effect later in case the live-action creature wasn’t convincing. “You are cowards,” Herzog told them. “Leave it.”

7. Baby Yoda bootleg merchandise has become a force.

When Favreau decided to keep Baby Yoda under tight wraps before the premiere of The Mandalorian, it forced Disney to postpone plans for tie-in merchandising, which can often leak plot points from film and television projects in retailer solicitations months in advance. As a result, precious little Baby Yoda merchandise is available, save for some hastily-assembled shirts and mugs on the Disney Store website. That leaves craftspeople on Etsy and other outlets to fabricate bootleg Baby Yoda plush dolls and other items.

The shortage runs parallel to the predicament faced by toy maker Kenner upon the release of the original Star Wars in 1977. Faced with a huge and unexpected holiday demand for action figures, the company was forced to sell consumers an empty box with a voucher for the toys redeemable the following year.

The Most Popular Christmas Movie in Each State

dusanpetkovic/iStock via Getty Images
dusanpetkovic/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone has a favorite classic holiday movie, from 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life to 1983’s A Christmas Story to 1988’s Die Hard, which may or may not fit the criteria for a festive film depending on who you ask. Home advice website House Method decided to see if those favorites varied by state. To find out, the site polled 4580 people and compiled the results into handy infographics.

An infographic breaking down favorite holiday movies by state is pictured
House Method

As you can see, A Christmas Story dominates the country, with 24 states and a total of 12.8 percent of respondents naming it their favorite. The 2003 Will Ferrell comedy Elf came in second, with 11 states and 11.2 percent of the vote. Rounding out the top five—when looking at the overall percentage—are 1990’s Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life, with a dark horse—1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas—scoring 6.3 percent of voting and winning over Tennessee. Nebraska was an outlier, naming 1989’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation their favorite.

Here’s how it breaks down by count according to state:

An infographic breaking down favorite holiday movies by state is pictured
House Method

By percentage is where animated classics like 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas rank:

An infographic breaking down favorite holiday movies by percentage of votes is pictured
House Method

Kansas and Vermont selected Die Hard, an often-contentious choice. (The film is set during Christmas in Los Angeles, with Bruce Willis’s everyman cop forced to battle terrorists in Nakatomi Plaza during a holiday party.) House Method decided to throw in a bonus question: Does the film qualify as a Christmas movie? The survey says no, with nearly 60 percent declaring it ineligible for holiday status. Sorry, Bruce.

An infographic depicting survey results about 'Die Hard' being a Christmas movie is pictured
House Method

[h/t House Method]

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