Watchmen Move stillsWell, it’s not enough that comic book movies have saved the box office, now they are saving the DVD business, which fell 3.2% last year to a mere $15.9 billion. How? Well, using Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, of course. According to the NY Times, Warner is trying a bold new tactic in conjunction with the release of the WATCHMEN movie next year: a concurrent release of the animated TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER as a direct-to-dvd movie.

The second film, tentatively called “Tales of the Black Freighter,” follows a side “Watchmen” storyline about a shipwreck and will arrive in stores five days after the main movie rolls out in theaters. The DVD will also include a documentary-style film called “Under the Hood” that will delve into the characters’ backstories.

Warner, the No. 1 distributor of DVDs, bills the effort as a way to renew retail excitement for little silver discs now that the once-booming market has matured.

The move is an investment in creating excitement for WATCHMEN, which is already a risky business as an R-rated, mature-themed superhero movie.

The immediate goal is for the parallel release to help start a potential new movie franchise. As television advertising becomes less effective because of declining TV viewership, movie studios need to reach a mass audience somehow, and having what amounts to ads sitting on store shelves is seen as a crucial antidote.

The effort is also a way for Warner to get more DVD bang for not many more bucks. The “Watchmen” film, Mr. Synder said, will probably generate at least three DVDs: “Tales of the Black Freighter,” followed about four months later by release of “Watchmen” itself, and then an “ultimate” edition in which the two are edited together into one megamovie.

You don’t say. Warner also plans to create a dozen 22- to 26-minute Webisodes of “The Watchmen Motion Comic” to help make the story more palatable to non-Watchmen initiates. This series, which will eventually be collected into DVD, will be “a panel-by-panel slide show of the graphic novel narrated by an actor.” So that’s at least FOUR dvds that we will have to buy then. Let’s hope Warner does a better job of marketing this movie than they did SPEED RACER!

Setting aside how positively thrilled Alan Moore must be over all this, we’re thrilled because dear, dear Gerard Butler is going to take time out from his busy schedule of being linked to Hollywood starlets to provide the main voice for Black Freighter! Win-win!


  1. This whole Watchmen movie thing makes me queasy. The whole enterprise reeks of spoiled mayonaise. I’ll stick to the book, the way Mr. Moore intended it. Out of respect for him, I encourage folks interested in seeing this trainwreck to consider waiting a couple weeks to do so, so we can all laugh at the creepy Time-Warner executives pooping out their collective lower intestines.

  2. Somewhere, in a parallel universe, PBS is showing the complete “Watchmen” miniseries on “Mystery” during their Spring fund drive. In addition to the main story and the “Black Freighter” sequences (presented as movie serials seen on the youth’s futuristic Sony Watchman), “Mystery” licensed affiliate programs for the background pieces. “Nature”, “Frontline”, and “American Experience” (Ken Burns) provided “archival” documentaries of each superhero.

  3. Of that $15 billion, they only deserved maybe 5. Double dips were bad enough, now we’re looking at triple and quadruple dips. They’ll never learn. All they understand is $$$$$$ and profits up or down. When studio executives are crying to their lawyers about illegal downloads and are looking for someone to blame, they should look in the mirror…. provided they even have a reflection in the first place.

    Anyone who pays more than $10 for a DVD is throwing money away. A little bit of patience gets you DVDs from a year ago at $3.99 that were selling for $14.99.

  4. I gotta agree with Steven. This whole Watchmen movie thing just gets more and more disgusting.

    I know most comic book fans think Moore is being a baby, but he does have a point. When the contract was signed, no one ever imagined Watchmen would stay in print for more than a year and a half, tops. The deal was never intended to give Warner the rights forever, just long enough to print the book.

    Watchmen is the only piece of legitimate superhero comic book literature we have. Personally, I’m not comfortable with looking to it as a cash cow to milk. The book was always intended to exist as a singular story deconstructing everything about superheroes and comic book narrative structure, not to be the origin of a new superhero universe.

    I feel like this Black Freighters DVD is like the commercial with the cable company trying to compete with satellite companies. In the commercial, the executives say the only way to increase business is to charge more for the same product. This is sorta the same thing. “Sell them the Black Freighters DVD, then sell it to them again on the special edition Watchmen DVD!” No thank you.

    There’s no way in Hell I’m going to see the Watchmen movie in theaters. The book holds a special place in my heart largely due to the execution – the way the book examines comic book narrative structures in the course of a comic book story, in the process making it the best comic ever written. Unless the movie is a deconstruction of movie narrative structures in the course of telling a movie story, there’s nothing for me to care about.

    Personally, I’m hoping both the DVD and movie bomb badly. If not for the disrespect to Moore than for the crass commercialism.

  5. The only thing I don’t understand about Moore’s upset over Thje Watchman remaining in print indefinitely is that in the world of books and authors, that’s a dream which seldom comes true because this means that royalties are being paid to Moore every year. Books by such authors as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Cussler, James Lee Burke and others are constantly in print because they keep selling and the authors keep making money from them. Unless Moore is not making much in royalties, I don’t know what he’s complaining about.

  6. I’m in the camp of how can they make a single 2 hour-ish movie from Moore and Gibbon’s book, but I’m getting more and more encouraged that the filmakers are giving it their all.

    I always tell people that even with as well as Watchmen has sold over the years, that there are still people who haven’t read it and just the fact that a big budget movie is being made will turn on whole new audiences to this great work.

  7. Moore is complaining because he is otherwise unhappy with DC/Time-Warner and does not like remaining linked to them to that degree. Otherwise, yes, kept-in-print is generally considered a good thing.

    And those wishing disaster on the work out of respect for Mr. Moore might want to consider that Moore did not create Watchmen alone; Mr. Gibbons was also rather involved, and has shown vast support of this effort.

  8. I’ve always been on the side of the equation that has said that to try and tell the whole Watchmen story you need this project to be an HBO mini-series. There was just too much intricacy and parallel storylines (like an episode of LOST) to encompass in one movie.

    So now Warners is going to try and tell the whole story except across several platforms: a theatrical movie, a D2DVD animated movie and a documentary.

    All of which is based on material from the book.

    Now explain to me how this is a bad thing when they are clearly trying to satisfy those f*cks out in the audience who say “Well the book was much better…” or “They cut so much out of it.”

    I swear comic fans can pull defeat out of victory every frikkin’ time.

  9. I just have one question for the Warner Brothers executives that have dreamed up this fiasco. Have they actually read the book? I mean, really, on what planet does Watchmen provide a good basis for a franchise? And, also, what would be the point of a Black Freighter story outside of the Watchmen narrative? The mind boggles.

  10. Nat and James,

    The difference between book publishers like the ones prose authors use and DC are vast. For one, the prose publisher doesn’t get movie rights, just the rights to publish the text.

    (BTW – King, Koontz, and the rest aren’t really a good analogy. They write books for the lowest common denominator in order to maximize their sales. Moore has almost exclusively written works to challenge the literary medium, with sales being a relatively minor concern and almost no demonstrable concern of reaching as many people as possible.)

    As for Gibbons, I don’t care because he’s already making his money by virtue of the movie going into production. This is it for him, too. It’s not like if Watchmen is a big success, there will be tons of Dave Gibbons works going into production. On the other hand, if Watchmen is a success, there will be more Moore works going into production, and I’d rather see that stop now than continue to see Moore get pissed off and less prolific.

  11. Nat, the difference is that had Watchmen not remained in print, all the rights would have reverted back to Alan Moore. HE could then decide if it should be made into a film, HE could have put the book back in print independently. Instead, he signed his name to a contract that punished him for doing an amazing job, while having no way of knowing that’s what he was doing.

  12. It should be noted that, last I heard, my understanding is that Moore has requested his name be removed from all movie adaptations of his work, and any that any residuals he makes from films made from his work be given to the artists instead of him. If anyone knows otherwise, please do speak up.

    It is a good point that Gibbons will benefit from the movie, Nat. At least some good will come out of it! While it is nice to see Gibbons make some money, I still think producing the movie without Moore’s blessing is contemptible.

    I realize he made a bad deal on this and many other properties he worked on… so did Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and many, many, many others in the history of comics. That it was a bad business decision on Moore’s part seems pretty irrelevant to me. I think he was exploited, and his work is being exploited against his wishes.

    Since I don’t wish to see the ones exploiting him make a lot of money in the process (and since the movie looks like a gawdawful mess), I don’t want to see it. I again encourage all who DO want to see this mess to perform the painless act of at least waiting a couple weeks to do so to make Time Warner cough some blood for it, and, with a little luck, maybe even lose their shirts. What’s the rush to see Hollywood turn a wonderful book into poop anyhow?

  13. Kenny:

    There are prose contracts that include film rights as well as ones that don’t.

    Your statements about King and Koontz versus Moore sound like they’re grounded totally in assumption.

    I see no reason to assume that if this is successful, there won’t be further Gibbons works going into production… nor has the fact that past Moore-based films have underperformed stopped this one from going ahead. For that matter, I’ve not seen his contracts and cannot say whether the amount Gibbons makes of this is independent of its success; have you?

  14. Alexa, what you list as differences are not actually different from common prose books terms at the time – many left the publication rights with the publisher for as long as the book remained in print. We’re seeing less of that now, because with the advent of Print-On-Demand, a book can be kept technically “in print” at no real expense to the publisher, and for no real reason than to hold on to the rights, so savvy writers make sure there are some more concrete terms in their contracts.)

    And unless Moore had some uncommon deal with Gibbons, no, not all rights would have gone back to Moore. They woud’ve been shared with Dave, who at least under US law (I’m not sure about UK law) could have authorized a film without Moore’s okay (although he would’ve had to have split the proceeds.)

    I’m not saying Moore has no right to be surprised by the results or unhappy. James is right that the more common author complaint would be that things are not kept in print and generating royalties than that they are – but we are under no requirement to be common.

  15. What Nat said, although to be fair, Moore (and Gibbons) had no way of knowing back in the 80’s that WATCHMEN would be given the prose publication treatment. There really was no graphic novel market at the time; in fact, WATCHMEN was the breakthrough title for graphic novels and was a pioneer in creating that market (and WATCHMEN was created for periodicals anyway, not as an OGN). They probably expected it to go out of print, as graphic novels had, up ’til that point.

    As Moore has stated, his artists have been given his share of monies from option and production rights to films (and, presumably, from merchandising based on those adaptations). Let’s hope that Gibbons gets something for those action figures, although it’s unlikely that he got any extra for the DVD releases of Black Freighter and Under the Hood, but as Nat says, we don’t know for sure. Hope he’s getting something for those webisodes, especially since they’re using the text of the GN itself (but I doubt he is, since that’s still such a gray area in terms of rights and royalties).

    I don’t have a side in this fight. I’ll probably see it with low expectations (probably not opening week) and whether it turns out to be a decent adaptation will determine if I bother with the multi-ultra-DVD edition of the movie.

    I’m not convinced that ANY Moore project can ever be adapted successfully. His work is just too complex.

  16. Nat,

    Really? The John Byrne school of conversation? If you refute something I say and I can’t prove what I say with a link, then you’re right?

    True, while some prose publishing deals include movie rights, some don’t, and certainly not the deals signed by the prose authors of Moore’s respective fame. Those authors are free to sell the movie rights to whoever they like.

    “Your statements about King and Koontz versus Moore sound like they’re grounded totally in assumption.”

    If by assumption you mean based on interviews I’ve read with the authors, as well as my own conclusions drawn from reading their work, then sure, call it assumption. You’d be wrong, but you can call it that.

    Have I read the contract Gibbons signed? No. But don’t play stupid. The way another Moore deal whose details have leaked out have stipulated it, the creators were given their money upfront and independent of how the movie performed. What other deal? Did you read the details of the LXG lawsuit? I have.

    No, I’m not going to provide you any links, and yes, I’m assuming that’s your next question. Go read something on your own.

  17. I’m also one fan who’s getting nervous about the proposed changes to the actual storyline itself and all this merchandising… it’s the rebel in me that just flinches at the extent of the corporate monster. I wonder if they’ll include the action figures for Veidt to “veto” like he did in the actual graphic novel or if it’ll become a plug for the actual thing.


    And, for the record – I loved Speed Racer.


  18. Kenny, if you make questionable statements, it really doesn’t behoove the rest of us to simply assume you know what you’re talking about.

    Not assuming that what you interpreted from the deal on LXG is the deal on Watchmen – that’s not a way to “play stupid”. Rather, it reflects that not all movie rights deals are the same, just as not all prose deals are the same (as you admitted in your backpedaling.) And I’m someone who has written or co-written about a couple dozen books for other publishers (in addition to being a publisher myself), and who has signed away and optioned movie and TV rights. For example: does Gibbons make additional money if the Watchmen movie is successful enough that the studio backs a sequel theatrical release? I know that under contracts I’ve had, I would’ve. I know that other folks who have made their comics creations made into movies have made additional money off of the sequels.

  19. I think you’re getting into a real slippery area when you start taking the author’s intentions into consideration (e.g. the arguments about King and Koontz vs Moore). I say a writer of an original work should have all the same rights, regardless of whether the author intended to write a “masterpiece” or a “beach read.” Because I bet, more often than you’d expect the author of a “masterpiece” had simply set to write a good old “yarn”, and that someone writing their “magnum opus” churned out a clunky potboiler.

  20. The thought of a Watchmen sequel frightens me, as it has to be one of the most un-sequelable stories in comics. But it is Hollywood we’re talking about.

    That said, it’s unlikely an R-rated (is it really R?) superhero movie will generate the kinds of numbers to provide incentive to make a sequel, especially given the production costs. I get the feeling all the offshoot DVDs are a way to recoup costs and in effect franchise the movie while it’s still in theaters, because there’s no way in God’s Holy Hell there’ll ever be a Watchmen 2…but it is Hollywood we’re talking about.

  21. Kenny,

    Just because someone questions your words doesn’t mean they think you are stupid. Nat Gertler is a publisher, as well as a creator. He knows quite a bit about contracts, copyrights, and trademarks.

    As to Moore, he signed a contract with DC over Watchmen that he thought would let the rights revert back to him in a few months or years. It turned out not to be so. I got the impression that he thought someone had made a Gentleman’s agreement with him, then reneged.

    The deal with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was that the studio flat out lied about Moore’s participation in the movie. They said Moore had read the script and approved. Not so. Moore subsequently feels that the movie business is full of untrustworthy people, and he wants nothing further to do with them.

  22. Industry politics and freely agreed to contracts aside, I’m excited to see a live adaptation of ‘Under The Cowl.’

    Hopefully it’ll be an original film, and not clips of the movie strung together.

  23. Industry politics and freely agreed to contracts aside, I’m excited to see a live adaptation of ‘Under The hood.’

    Hopefully it’ll be an original film, and not clips of the movie strung together.

  24. If Tales of the Black Freighter is animated in the same flawless impeccable style as the Justice League New Frontier DVD was – then I don’t think anyone is going to have much to complain about.

    Warner Bros Animation rules.



  25. Where’s the talk of Watchmen sequels and franchises coming from? I read the link above and it doesn’t mention a sequel, or franchising. I read about a film – by the same director – made from a sub-plot in the original book that is too lengthy to include in the feature and so will be released on dvd as a sort of optional bonus for fans, and a narrated slideshow of the comic itself released for free on the internet. It’s not Brett Ratner’s Watchmen 2: Rorschach Returns.

    I definitely dislike that they’re being so blunt and calculated about selling the same product repeatedly but them’s the breaks. While I’m far from convinced that Watchmen will make a good film I actually do believe that Snyder is sincere and trying to deliver as faithful a version as he thinks he can.

  26. I don’t like it when studios double-dip for DVD’s, but if they are going to do it, I rather know up front. Then I can choose what version of the DVD I will like to get ahead of time. Rather than buying a DVD and then finding about the special/ultimate/extended edition that I would have liked to have bought after the fact.

  27. I love how this movie is given no chance whatsoever from some of you people. Like Mr. Stewart said I think that Snyder is sincere too and I hope that it shows. If everyone who read the book didn’t see the movie out of some sort of protest, it still wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway. Sadly this movie is going to be seen by more people who haven’t read the book. But that’s with most adaptations anyway.

    I don’t know it always kinda stuck in my craw that he made a big stink about those Watchmen figures a ways back yet they made a Tom Strong figure. Also the stink about how they altered V for Vendatta’s themes to make it more timely. I mean hasn’t he made a career out of using and altering others’ creations to meet his own needs. Do you think that Orczy wanted the Scarlett Pimpernel to be running around a giant uterus before getting spunked on? I don’t know maybe. But maybe not too!

    I love Alan Moore, but I mean come on, I don’t feel the need to take up some cause for him either.

  28. There is construction underway in hell, I hear, to build a new circle especially to house whinging internet fanboys. They will be forced to subsist on nothing but Mountain Dew and off-brand Nachos, and will have nothing to entertain them but betamax copies of Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings and the Star Wars Holiday Special. And all the comics will be from Aircel.

    I mean, come ON! Although certainly nobody can tell how this movie is going to be in the story, directing, acting aspect – simply on the basis of photo after photo of utterly faithful and at the same time inspired set and costume design, this is clearly a respectable effort that has more than earned the benefit of the doubt. They’re even using Dave Gibbons’ color palettes, and in a non Dick Tracey, believable way! That’s love in those pictures.

    For years I’ve been dreading the eventual film to be made from this book, and the series of pictures so far released has completely turned me around. I’m getting dangerously excited about this film, to the point of having to tamp down my expectations in order to not be disappointed.

    And now, an animated Black Freighter? Sorry, that’s just awesome. I will happily buy it.

    Alan Moore is a great author and I respect his unbudging principled stands, but I’m also really looking forward to this film, which is clearly being handled in a highly respectable way, moreso than anyone could have ever predicted it would be.

    There’s milking by hand, and milking by machine. These folks are clearly milking this cow by hand, with care, and bag-balm. mmmm – good milk!

    And that’s your uncomfortable metaphor for the evening.

  29. This is great. I heard that they weren’t filming the Black Freighter, and now we get it as an animated flick AND the Under the Hood documentary? That means we get everything! Great job WB!

    And hey, the Black Freighter stuff is boring? First I’ve ever heard that comment…

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