Rich Johnston & WATCHMEN

Usually, I don't really mind when Rich Johnston gets something wrong -- usually it is future news, he's playing telephone, and publishers don't want to co-operate with him. He's going to get shit wrong, c'est la vie. But history? That's important to get right!

This morning, Rich opened a story like so: "Today, the final issue of Before Watchmen: Comedian is published, a couple of months late. Which is about how late the very original final issue of Watchmen was."



WATCHMEN was not (especially) late -- certainly not monthS!

Travel back to 1986, and comics really just weren't late at all -- in fact, they had ship WEEKS that, without fail, comics shipped in.  If the comic was going to be late? FILL-IN ISSUE. So I get why people who were there might FEEL that WATCHMEN was very late, because every other comic book around it shipped with clockwork precision.

Thanks to the Awesome John Jackson Miller, we can back things up with actual facts. To wit:

Cover Date Ship Date Capital City Orders C.C. Rank #1 book that month at Capital City Distribution
Watchmen #1 Sep-86 May 13 34,100 5th Classic X-Men #1
Watchmen #2 Oct-86 Jun 20 38,350 10th The Man of Steel #1
Watchmen #3 Nov-86 Jul 8 38,000 10th The Man of Steel #3
Watchmen #4 Dec-86 Aug 12 40,500 8th The Man of Steel #5
Watchmen #5 Jan-87 Sep 9 33,150 11th Superman Vol. 2 #1
Watchmen #6 Feb-87 Oct 14 32,700 15th Superman Vol. 2 #2
Watchmen #7 Mar-87 Nov 11 30,150 Prob. Uncanny X-Men #215
Watchmen #8 Apr-87 Dec 9 28,150 Prob. Uncanny X-Men #216
Watchmen #9 May-87 Jan 13 28,150 15th Uncanny X-Men #217
Watchmen #10 Jul-87 Feb 10 26,850 13th Uncanny X-Men #218
Watchmen #11 Aug-87 May 19 28,300 13th Punisher #1
Watchmen #12 (canc.) Oct-87 31,900 9th Uncanny X-Men #220
Watchmen #12 (res.) Oct-87 Jun 23 34,150 6th Uncanny X-Men #221

See? WATCHMEN shipped 12 issues in 13 months.

I get that 1986 is a long time ago, but let's give perfect fucking credit to WATCHMEN, one of the most intricate and clockwork of comics, one of the highest standards of comics craft and storytelling, AND IT (mostly) SHIPPED ON TIME. Certainly, it DID ship on time according to DC's revised schedule.

Now, Frank Miller's DARK KNIGHT RETURNS? Yeah, that one was months late in the end. (#3 and #4 were very late), and also CAMELOT 3000 which, as I recall, end up 13 months late in the end. Then there are things like SONIC DISRUPTORS where we're STILL waiting (some of us!) for the last four issues to ship.

But WATCHMEN #12? On-freakin'-time.

So I say to you: Shame on you, Rich Johnston, shame!


A thought on ages...

Just got an email from John Jackson Miller (Editor at Krause's COMIC BUYERS GUIDE), which I thought I should share with you as well as my response. This is a little further afield of the usual content of this blog, but I thought that, possibly, it could generate an interesting thread on the comments section. Let's see, shall we?

JJ Wrote:

>>>Hi, Bri!

Craig Shutt and I are discussing the Bronze Age and its potential terminus, and we got to talking about Legends of the Dark Knight #1. He said you'd made an argument that there are enough problems "from a technical perspective" with using LODK as the divider that you prefer Spider-Man #1 from the following year -- but Craig couldn't recall the specifics.

We're doing another piece on this, so can you recap your case against LODK for me? My feeling has been that it marked the complete commoditization of the comic book and the beginning of the variant silliness, and that Spider-Man #1 is a difference only of degree. But I can be convinced, so if you can recall what you had to say, I'd appreciate it. I honestly don't remember much noteworthy from the interval between the two...

Best regards,

John Jackson Miller

Editorial Director, Krause Publications Comics & Games Division


My argument, as I recall it, was that the commoditization of the comic book was “accidental” in the case of LDK – the story goes that DC saw the order numbers for it, and freaked the fuck out, thinking there was NO WAY the DM could possibly absorb that many copies. The outer covers were added to ensure sell-THROUGH.

With McSpidey #1, multiple covers were used to increase sell-IN – which I think is the key factor in commoditization

Further, McSpidey #1 was (I think?) the first time that a book was created for a CREATOR, rather than the character – the selling point wasn’t so much that it was a new Spidey book – it was that it was TODD MCFARLANE’s new Spidey book.

It also, I think, marked the point where craft marked a decline – I still get a giggle out of “His powers? Advantageous!” whenever I think of it – because creator and synergy and commercial goals became more important than the actual craft of what was being produced. That 800-pound gorilla thing marked much of the next decade.

So that’s why I think McSpidey #1 is a MUCH better delineator than LDK #1 – it’s not just degree, it’s a wholly different thing.

Intellectually, I suppose I’d *really* argue that “Bronze age” runs from SUPERBOY SPECTACULAR (that’s the title, right?) – the first “DM exclusive” title, where publishers realized there was a retainable, non-fickle audience, and so they could start to do things FOR them – through to CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #x (Maybe #1, but more probably #8), because that’s when the “tone” began to change. McSpidey #1 probably denotes the beginning of the “Dark Age”, going clear through…. Well, that’s harder to say with less than 10 years behind the terminus… something “NuMarvel”, perhaps? I don’t have a clear fix on it.

We’re definitely in a new “age” now – one where fun has begun to return, and commoditization has been “internalized” or, perhaps institutionalized might be a better word – it might have started, possibly, with ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #1, though 10 years from now I think that’s not going to “feel right”.

I tend to think “ages” begin with CONSCIOUS DECISIONS – which is why I’d put SHOWCASE #4 above the DETECTIVE with the first J’onn J’onzz as the true start of “Silver” books – but I don’t think they END cleanly or clearly at all – there’s a gap between gold and silver, and silver and bronze.