Apr
15

Before Watchmen: Marketing Tips and a Bold Prediction

Posted by Chris Eckert on Sunday, April 15th, 2012 at 01:13:07 AM

Looks like Brothers mopped up the whole odious “moral high ground” statement from today’s Before Watchmen panel, so let me offer some free advice to DC Marketing and its attendant promotional arms at various big comic blogs.

Look, I’m not a fancy marketing whiz. I’ve never worked at an ad agency or anything. But I have been on the Internet for a long time, long enough to remember when Mondo 2000 was a thing and Boing Boing was just a zine and Douglas Rushkoff was still a doe-eyed optimist about the potential of CYBERIA and memes were something you would namedrop while shouting over Rave Til Dawn at that warehouse club from Hackers, not a picture of a dog talking to someone on a telephone with captions in an Impact font.

So please believe when I tell you, I don’t think you know what viral marketing is. Or maybe it’s not you. Maybe I need to address this to bloggers out there, and the “viral” wording isn’t from DC itself. But…

Comic Book Resources:

Before Watchmen” Goes Viral With Online “New Frontiersman… The articles, entrenched in the 1977 universe of “Watchmen,” serve as a piece of viral marketing that has extended to the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, where paper copies of the 1977-vintage newsletter are being given out at the DC booth.

Comic Book Therapy:

DC Comics Launches Before Watchmen Viral Site

Comicbook.com:

Using The New Frontiersman as a sort of viral marketing site for Before Watchmen is in keeping with themes and literary devices used in the first series

And so on. Viral marketing, as much as it is an actual thing that you can define, is supposed to be subtle, infectious, mysterious. It’s supposed to get people talking, searching, wondering what’s going on. And admittedly, a fake newspaper is a more “interesting” thing than a WordPress template (or Baby’s First Flash Site) containing a few marketing one-sheets and some promo art. But when you set up a domain that redirects to dccomics.com,  link to it from the official DC Comics Twitter and your official Watchmen promotional Twitter,  have a big ol’ banner hyping it on your Watchmen site (and your main corporate site), have your boilerplate copyright info right there at the bottom of the site, and print up copies of the material to hand out at your official convention booth? That’s what I imagine people in the business call plain ol’ marketing.

If that’s what we’re calling viral marketing now, we might as well just automatically append “viral” to the front of everything.

“I just saw a pretty sweet viral trailer for The Avengers before that Three Stooges movie, looks fun.”

“You know what I found in the pocket of an old coat? A viral JIMMY OLSEN MUST DIE badge promoting Countdown.”

“That viral feature on Dark Knight Rises in EW still hasn’t sold me on the Catwoman costume.”

“I picked up the viral hardcover of Flex Mentallo this weekend, not crazy about the viral recoloring.”

“Viral marketing” is a pretty dumb, debased phrase to begin with, and I probably did not need to point out this mote when there is a mountain range of bullshit in the eyes of everyone involved with Before Watchmen. But somehow, this annoyed me as much as all of the other doubletalk, doublethink, and crassness involved with the project. The fake newspaper is not even a particularly original idea: I could show you the ones DC did for Invasion, Transmetropolitan, the Death of Superman, or the five hundred Daily Bugles Marvel has put out in the past twenty-five years. Some of those were actually kind of clever, too.

But still, who can’t get swept up in the hype? Let me make a bold prediction about the plot of one of these books. From Bleeding Cool:

I’m told that JMS’s version of the Comedian may be rather controversial in that it’s a very different take on the character, that neglects certain established aspects of the character for a fresh approach that will, and I quote, “people’s minds are going to explode”.

If there is one thing that keeps the Comedian from being a good ol’ fashioned blood ‘n’ guts wisecrackin’ badass anti-hero that DC can sculpt a franchise out of in a series on Earth-NofuckYOUalan by Chuck Dixon and Paul Gulacy, it’s that whole bit where he rapes Sally Jupiter, the original Silk Spectre. Now, despite repeatedly calling Alan Moore out for being a big crybaby, I have no doubt that JMS and everyone involved with this project has the utmost respect for Watchmen, the classic series that somehow created itself under the ownership of Time Warner. They would never mess with such a pivotal scene in the comic. So how to solve this problem?

It’s simple, and a trick that JMS loves to use. Sally Jupiter’s daughter Laurie is married to Dr. Manhattan, the omnipotent nudist who can probably time travel, right? What if Sally asks her son in law to send her back in time, where she tells a young Comedian that the two of them have a wonderful daughter who carries on the Silk Spectre legacy, and that no matter what, he must impregnate her with Laurie at a pre-ordained time. No matter how much the contemporary Sally fights back, she has given pre-emptive/retroactive consent, which means it wasn’t rape.

There you go! The Comedian is redeemed, and people’s origin stories are a faux-profound, nonsense circle-of-life. Tell me that isn’t right up JMS’s alley! Then try to tell me with a straight face you’re expecting something better than this idea in the actual book.

Posted in Blurbs · Read more by Chris Eckert

12 Responses

  1. [...] Let me be the first to say WHEW! I’m glad that they managed to get the people at the top of their list, too, since Kevin Smith, Grant Morrison, and Frank Quitely all turned them down. That’s how you know they’re being truthful: there’s no hype, just hard-hitting facts. Funnybook Babylonian Chris Eckert has more on DC’s effective and inspiring marketing scheme here, and a hint for what JMS’… [...]

  2. The idea that a character could retroactively consent to her own rape through some time-travel nonsense is so mind-bogglingly terrible that I’m willing to believe that it might appears in a book published by DC Comics, yes.

  3. I appreciate that you’re half joking, and not wishing to defend DC in any way, you understand, but I’d amazed if any editor or writer in their right mind went near a plot that could be summarised as “it’s not rape because she’ll want it in the future”

  4. While I like the story conceit (you’re making whatever actually comes look bad already), Sally Jupiter wasn’t raped. She was assaulted and the Comedian was prevented from raping her. Years later they had consensual sex that led to Laurie’s birth. While rape figures into many an Alan Moore comic, it wasn’t in Watchmen in the case of Sally or her daughter’s birth.

  5. I’ll bet you anything that jms makes the comedian a closeted gay dude. I’ll also bet you anything that the book suuuuucks.

  6. Oh my god, that retroactive consent idea is HORRIBLE…which means there’s probably a greater than 70% chance it (or something like it) will be in there. I was never a fan of this BW concept to begin with (for many reasons), and I’m liking it less and less the closer we get to release.

  7. I do think it’s worth mentioning that JMS isn’t writing Comedian, Brian Azzarello is.

  8. I am aware that JMS is not writing the Comedian mini-series but I have to assume there will be overlap of characters between the different mini-series. He’s writing two other series (Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl) and the rumor I linked to specifically cites him as the one with the controversial Comedian position.

    I assume this is the same sort of thing as how JMS wrote Tony Stark as a mustache twirling Nazi throughout the Civil War event, despite not writing the book titled “Iron Man”.

  9. I agree with pretty much everything you wrote in that CA piece. I haven’t quit Marvel and DC but I’m damn close, only holding onto a couple titles from each company. 95% of the Big Two comics I buy are used copies from mail order comic shops. Why? Because they’re much cheaper and usually much better than what’s being produced now.

    For me, it isn’t just a moral issue but rather an issue of artistry and quality, and the latter two criteria have declined in spades over the last few years. Still, the moral outrage inside me is growing; it seems to grow in proportion to others turning a blind eye and accepting whatever the Big Two do simply because they are good little consumers.

    It’s not only pseudo-corporate sites like Newsarama, it’s also sites like iFanboy, which used to seem like a small operation run by a handful of buddies. But now they’re basically inventing excuses to just be “okay” with everything. “Before Watchmen doesn’t sit well with you? Well, you like Darwyn Cooke, don’t you? Therefore you must be okay with Before Watchmen. Get over it.”

    On the other side, the Avengers movie would have been interesting to me had I not had to undergo so many months of mounting propaganda. I don’t care how hot Scarlett Johannson is, that’s not going to make me spend $15 seeing this movie. And Sam Jackson was a lot cooler to me before I saw him everywhere, and particularly before he admitted to voting for Obama just because he was black (while simultaneously saying he was disappointed in how Obama worked out AND holding a fundraiser for the Prez; whatever your political leanings (and I don’t HATE Obama), all of that was just too much like double-think for me to stomach). Ditto with Downey–he was sort of cool before he was everywhere and before everyone told me I had to be endlessly impressed with the guy.

    The big-picture view on all of this is that I’m tired of the HYPE. There is creative injustice going on, and creative laziness, and legally shady practices–and it all rests under a huge banner of HYPE that tries to hide everything distasteful. Basically, I feel that we have to start resisting. People have to realize how much free will they are in fact losing because of their addiction to hype. Everyone knows that Before Watchmen is a bad idea; but people can’t resist the hype, no matter how shady it looks. Avengers would be a cool movie, sure–but the amount of hype it’s getting should put people off a BIT, I would think, unless they were utterly addicted to hype. Which they sadly are.

  10. ^Oh fuck. I meant to write that under Brothers’ 4thletter article. Delete please. SORRY.

  11. [...] in action, but in theme and intent' is what it's going to be! Check out this prediction from Funnybook Babylon's Chris Eckert Originally Posted by Chris Eckert Let me make a bold prediction about the plot of one of [...]

  12. [...] of the Before Watchmen event rapidly went from unsavory to downright offensive. It wasn’t the cheesy ‘viral’ marketing tactics or the audience plants. It was the series of interviews where the creators working on the project [...]

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