Before Watchmen: Marketing Tips and a Bold Prediction

Posted by 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


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.

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