Thursday, March 5, 2009

Watchmen, almost starring Blue Beetle

I assume most readers of this blog being pretty familiar with comic book lore know that Watchmen was originally pitched by Alan Moore to star DC's stable of characters recently acquired (as of the mid 80's) from Charlton (although apparently even before that, he sketched out the plot using the Mighty Crusaders, a fact I'm sure Kiel is aware of and either endlessly laments or celebrates). But in the end, DC elected not to use Blue Beetle and company as, according to Moore, they "realized their expensive characters would end up either dead or dysfunctional."

Now I had always known about the whole Charlton thing, but kinda assumed it would still have been some sort of "Elseworlds before Elseworlds" story ala Dark Knight Returns (I guess the DC term then would have been "Imaginary Story," as opposed to if it had been at Marvel, where "What If?" was already coined), but Moore's quote would imply it was going to not only star known characters, but take place in the DC Universe! How wild would that have been?

Well, for one thing, we'd all be going to see a movie this weekend centering around the Question investigating the death of Peacemaker, Blue Beetle and Nightshade getting frisky, Captain Atom being the most powerful dude on earth, and f'n Peter Cannon pulling the strings!

But that aside, and even pushing past the fact that had the Charlton idea made it past the conceptual stage then Moore likely would have needed to work Superman and Batman in somehow as nobody is gonna be trying to pull this shit on their watch (ha!) without them noticing, there are so many ways that Watchmen would have affected the DCU in a continuity sense that may seem small, but would have actually been pretty huge:

-If Blue Beetle had gone through Nite Owl's arc in Watchmen and still ended up on Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis' Justice League International somehow, he would have been a very very different character and that series would have taken a totally different direction. More than likely, Blue Beetle wouldn't have been in JLI, Giffen and DeMatteis would have used somebody like the Red Bee instead and we would have gotten Red & Gold instead of Blue & Gold.

-Captain Atom would have been insanely powerful and more than likely unusable as a character who regularly interacts with the rest of the DCU. He would have been like an energy-based version of the Spectre. Actually, I wouldn't have been surprised if he ended up starring in a long-running, critically acclaimed Vertigo series by Moore or Neil Gaiman or somebody and people would be asking questions at conventions about why he couldn't cameo in Justice League anymore. Also, Monarch would have ended up being Hawk in Armageddon 2001.

-We would likely never have gotten the classic Question series by Denny O'Neil and the character wouldn't have been awesome on "Justice League Unlimited." Renee Montoya would have ended up becoming a female version of Alias the Spider at the end of 52.

-Nightshade might not have been in the Suicide Squad. Peacemaker would definitely not have been in Checkmate. Life would have gone on.

-People would actually care about Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt.

-Somebody would have tried to revamp poor Judomaster and Sarge Steel, the sole Charlton characters without Watchmen avatars (unless I'm missing something and they were Mothman and Hooded Justice).

Anyways, even if DC had approved use of the Charlton characters, I've pretty sure somewhere in the course of development, either they or Moore would have pulled it out of the DCU proper to avoid the kinds of "Why isn't the Justice League stepping in here?" questions I posed earlier and because Moore would have wanted freedom to create his own world. It all likely ended up for the best of course.

However, before I leave you, let me pose you this little alternate reality scenario: What If (heh heh) the Watchmen Cast Replaced the Charlton Characters in the DCU? We would have...

-Nite Owl getting shot in the head by Maxwell Lord.

-Rorshach dying of cancer and getting replaced by a chick.

-Dr. Manhattan taking a vacation to the WildStorm Universe, becoming Monarch, then maybe(?) dying.

-The Comedian getting killed by Eclipso.

-Silk Spectre hanging around with Detective Chimp.

-Nobody caring about Ozymandias.

Yeah, I'm betting those characters definitely think it ended up working out for the best!


Jesse T. said...

I bet we would've had a lot more of Steve Ditko getting regular DC work in the '80s had Watchmen gone the Charlton route.
Not that I'm unhappy that we got Speedball instead, mind you.

Anonymous said...

Alan Moore actually specified in his original pitch, seen in 'Absolute Watchmen', that the Charlton characters would be existing in the 'real world'. The Charlton Universe and the DC Universe would not mix.

Ben Morse said...

Innnnnnnteresting. Thanks for that tidbit!