Thursday, March 25, 2010

Who wants the Watchmen, Part 2

Who wants the Watchmen?

In short - not me.

Don't get me wrong - it's a great story. However, I have no desire to play out their tragic tale on a Heroclix map and no illusions that these characters are worth emulating or idolizing, even in fantasy. Furthermore, I think the characters cannot be done justice when translated to a board game without simultaneously mocking the source material.

Heroclix is a very dynamic game system featuring hundreds of unique characters each capable of a wide array of powers. The Watchmen features a number of gritty, "real-world" characters, with a very narrow power set. Spider-man ties up villains in a web, crawls along walls, and can pick up cars. Rorschach beats people up, and... um... improvises a flame thrower with some hair spray. See the difference?

I trust that the Neca/Wizkids will deliver some dynamic dials, though they may not be accurate. For a majority of the Watchmen's story the heroes are out of shape, having retired from crime-busting years ago. This sounds as exciting to me as a Heroclix set featuring Al Bundy and Al Roker. Watchmen is a story of humans playing make-believe Supermen, where Heroclix is a game of humans playing with make believe Supermen. Now with the Watchmen collector's set, players have the option to field a team of regular dudes pretending to be heroes.


Dr. Manhattan might be the one exception to the rule, that is if he weren't so messed up mentally. As the only character with true super power in the story he could have made an interesting game piece if not for the fact that he spends most of the tale deep in thought, contemplating a course of action - to intervene in the affairs of mortals, (and thus deny them free will) or let events play out with disastrous consequences. Consider most of the characters hardly see action in the story, which also makes translating them to a game even more difficult.

Examine for a moment, just who the Watchmen battled in their universe. Rorschach spends more time fighting police and civilians than super-villains. Nite-Owl and Silk Specter tussle with gang bangers in an alleyway, in a fight that completely exhausts them.

Most of the real hardcore action goes on behind the scenes (Comedian's Murder, Moloch's death) or is covered in brief one panel snippets (Viet-Nam), and barely provides enough information to construct an accurate representation of a board game. Really, there's not a single antagonist in the story, aside from Ozymandis, that couldn't be represented with a Bystander Token.Power discrepancy issues aside there's another, larger reason I have no interest in the collector's set.

It seems as though Wizkids was so concerned if they could make a Watchmen set, that they never asked themselves if they should make it.

The Watchmen showcases a group of dark, sinister characters that would never pass muster as heroes in any sense of the definition.

Consider some of their actions during the course of the story. Comedian murders journalists to bury a scandal, rapes another hero, kills the mother of his unborn child (while Manhattan watches no less). Manhattan helps bring Ozymandis' plan to fruition and executes Rorschach to keep him from going public. Given the gravity of the story I can't bring myself to a point where I'd could field the Watchmen on a Heroclix map without feeling like I was idolizing them.

To me, Watchmen is an iconic property that you don't tinker with, less the original story lose weight. Merchandising is a slippery slope that threatens to undermine the characters diminishes the impact of their narrative, and brings the concept one step closer to parody. Today they're game pieces, tomorrow they're selling Doritos, and in three years they've got a cartoon. Eventually, the original meaning of their story is lost on the road to a quick buck.

Still, fans of the property have clamored for years to see this property translated to clix, and I'd hate to rain on their parade (even if Dr. Manhattan is only a fifth level magic user). It was bound to happen sooner or later - after all eventually the copyright to everything will be available for anyone to mess with.

Though it doesn't mean I have to buy it.


glen_smith said...

Don't know if you've ever read writer Peter David's blog or his articles in CBG, but he has had some interesting things to say about Moore's Watchmen.

The most interesting, I thought, concerned the 'wieght' given to the story by fans and that if the story had used the old Charlton Comics characters as originally intended, would it have been placed on to such a lofty pedestal?

Anyway, I guess I see your points. Good post.

You should have a "Donate" button or something. (So I could donate. :) )

Anonymous said...

This comment is for annoyingmouse; really have no idea what your talking about. There had been such anticipation of the 'Clix translation of Watchmen, that countless players were making up wana-be dials long before their initial release. And to say who cares about a bunch of 'normal people dressing up like heroes ( you gave th examples of Rorschach & NiteOwl, then I guess you dislike or never play, or even dont have th skill to use charterers like The Question & Blue Beetle, who incidentally are the characters Alan Moore based his Watchmen creations off of. So mouseguy you dont have to buy this set, but dont assume that other players like to use a range of options in their game from all comic book related materials, so if your happy & feel safe jus using Superman thats fine, but it shows 2 things: your skill, feeling safe only by fielding characters with a minimum of 5 damage & how boring it would be to beat you. Good Day

Anonym0use said...

I normally filter out hate mail but I thought I would share this post not because it has a lot of merit, but more or less because I find trolls humorous.

Dear Anonymous poster, because this is the Internet you are entitled to your opinion no matter how poorly worded and full of grammatical errors it is. I am flattered to have angered you enough for you to spend the time to write a hastily written and poorly thought out reply (all while hiding behind a false name). Please take note that in an actual debate people would not take your opinion seriously because of the aforementioned spelling and grammar errors. In fact it may be that upon reading your response many people find your opinion is irrelevant - if you didn't have time to run a spell check, you surely didn't take time to fact check.

In any debate setting when constructing an argument, or at the very least a counterpoint, one loses standing with an audience (and with judges) by resorting to name calling, which you do in your first sentence. Additionally, your style makes you appear uneducated which undermines the importance of the rest of your words. Nothing you've said is more than speculation and conjecture on your part, and I can't help but wonder if you actually comprehended the words I wrote, or merely glossed over my points and responded angrily because you like the Watchmen. Still, it's nice to see a grown person so emotionally involved with what amounts to little plastic men in tights that they would take the time out of their busy day to write to a completely irrelevant blog like mine. I thank you for giving me and my four readers some cheap entertainment by providing an easy target with this response and I sincerely hope that in the future you learn to construct better arguments so that you don't embarrass yourself like you have today.

Finally I'd like to offer some parting advice. The Internet is a big place, and there's room for a lot of opinions in it. I think you could do better turning your angry posts into a blog of its own. At the very least, I'd have fun reading the words you slammed together while trying to form a cohesive thought.

Thanks again,

your pal Anonym0use