By Ani Bundel
HBO has been extremely bullish on the upcoming series based on the Watchmen comic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The series hasn’t been an easy one to adapt. That’s partly because the visual style is tough to translate to the big or small screen. But it’s also due to the comic’s subject matter, which is a satire on the standard tropes of comics, both from DC and Marvel.
The last time Watchmen was adapted for film was 2009’s Zack Snyder cut, which was ultimately a disappointment. HBO hopes that by doing a series which is not a direct adaptation of the material, but an “inspired by” piece, it will avoid the same pitfalls. If the Activations the network has running around San Diego Comic-Con 2019 are any indication, this could be a very cool series indeed.
Unlike most Activations, the ones for Watchmen aren’t inside the San Diego Convention center. You won’t find them on the floor of the Exhibit Hall, or even on the center grounds immediately surrounding the area. Instead, the Activation booths (there are two) are located in different parts of the city’s Gaslamp Quarter. The first is on a random street corner in a parking lot along Sixth Street. The other is tucked away on the grounds of PetCo Park, across from the footbridge.
The Activation booth I found was the PetCo Park location. There was a surprisingly long line considering how tucked away it was, inside the park gates, a good 50 feet from the street. (One thing about SDCC-goers: If there is a line to stand in, they will find it.) The large blue box I was invited to enter wasn’t a TARDIS though, but a domed structure with the symbol for Dr. Manhattan on top. Inside it is the generator for an “Intrinsic Field Subtractor,” which famously turned Dr. Jonathan Osterman into the all-powerful all-seeing superhuman back in 1959.
Inside the booth, there is a huge screen and a 1950s telephone set up, which does make the TARDIS comparisons hard to avoid. Unlike most Activations where one stands in the center and waits for things to happen, this one requires a little bit of measuring. You’ll be asked to step off and then step back on the circle. Then the lights start flashing, the engines start whirring, and on the screen, your body starts to break apart into millions of molecules floating everywhere.
I was told to start moving and flailing once the flashes began. Doing so meant the X-Ray skeleton of myself that flashed on-screen started flying off in all directions. When the lights calmed down though, there was no mistaking what happened to me, as the blue skin and black eyes of Manhattan’s famous visage stared back at me.
Best part? On my way out, the Watchmen people gave me not one, but three collector’s pins, making this an Activation that’s worth the trek out of the Exhibit Hall to find.
The Watchmen Activations are located in the Gaslamp Quarter, at Sixth and Island Streets and the Trevor Hoffman Way entrance to PetCo Park.