The opening weekend has come and gone. The comic book movie a lot of us have been waiting almost 20 years to see has been released and is now in theaters. You might of heard about his little indy flick called "The Watchmen"? The movie roared into over 3000 theaters this past Friday and it took the top spot at the box office with an opening weekend gross of over $55 million.
This highly anticipated film has also brought us some highly anticipated product. Fans of the Watchmen have wanted product based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s award winning 12 issue series since it’s debut back in 1986 when Alan Moore wrote about the marketing and the possibility of action figures into the storyline of the book and the supplemental material at the end of each issue. Right there on the page, on Adrian Veidt’s desk…Watchmen action figures! Then in the background supplemental information there are fake memos and information about the whole LINE of fictitious Watchmen figures. They recreated one of those back-of-the-comic toy ads as part of the viral campaign for the movie. At the time of the actual release of the original issues there was no DC Direct, but DC Comics, recognizing that they had a hit on their hands, released some of their first product in the form of a set of four Watchmen buttons/pins.
Then, in 2000 it looked as if DC Direct was going to make our dreams a reality. At Comic Con 2000 DC Direct showed four Watchmen figures in their display. Fans were ecstatic as this sort of product seemed to be exactly the sort of thing that DC Direct was created for. On display that year was: Silk Spectre, Comedian (with alternate masked head) and two versions of Dr. Manhattan (regular and translucent) all sculpted by master sculptor Tim Bruckner.
There was a proposed series of Watchmen figures that never got past the prototype phase and rumored to be scheduled for release in July, 2001.
A few of the figure prototypes were displayed at summer toy and comic conventions including The Comedian, The Silk Spectre and Dr. Manhattan. The figures were going to be part of a 15th anniversary celebration of the miniseries.
Moore and co-creator Dave Gibbons decided not to take part in any such anniversary, in part because of a dispute over Watchmen merchandising. We can only hope at some point they come to an agreement so we can finally recreate the final climactic scene at 1:16 scale (Vivarium playset and Alien Squid sold separately).
The toy gods giveth and the toy gods taketh away and we have never had the opportunity to own these sculpts (more on that later).
Now, almost ten years later, fans have a shot at some actual Watchmen product! DC Direct has jumped in with both feet to bring us 7" and 13" Watchmen action figures, movie props and replicas. I wanted to talk to DC Direct honcho Georg Brewer and sculptor Tim Bruckner about the long journey to Watchmen product. What they learned, what didn’t happen and what’s next.
AFI: Back in the Summer of 2000 there were four Watchmen figures sculpted by Tim (Two versions of Dr. Manhattan-regular and translucent, Comedian – with a regular and scarred head, and Silk Spectre) that were based on Dave Gibbon’s original artwork shown at Comic Con that were never released. As I recall they are on a shelf in your office Georg. Including those, how long have you been working on Watchmen product?
George: I believe we started working on the original figures back in 1999, and showed them at ComicCon in 2000. So it looks like I’ve been working on this property in one form or another for almost a decade. Those original prototypes are one of my prized possessions.
AFI: Tim, you sculpted the original 3 figures based on the comic book art that were never released, and now you were able to take on the movie versions of some of those same characters. What was different this time working on the Watchmen for you?
Tim: When Georg and I worked on the book figures, the challenges were in regards to interpretation, character identification and trying to create figures that serviced the art and storyline. Technically, we were faced with problems that, at the time, would have stretched the limits of the materials we had available to us. So, it was a creative and collaborative experience. Working on the movie figures, as with any movie-based characters, the entire process begins and ends in the service of the producers, director and their vision and the reality they create.
AFI: I’ve heard you say before Tim that if DC Direct would go back and revisit the comic book versions of the Watchmen figures that you would want to start all over again on them. Most of the fans that remember them thought they were perfect. What is it that you see that we don’t?
Tim: There almost isn’t a figure I’ve done that I wouldn’t like to go back and do some tweaking. But with those figures in particular, I think I better understand
the art and craft of figure sculpting and engineering and think I could solve some of the problems more successfully that when I first made the attempt. In anticipation of working on the recent figures, I went back and read the book. I appreciated the story, the characters and the art so much more this time around; I’d like to put that renewed appreciation into the book figures now.
AFI: Let’s talk about the decision to revisit “The Watchmen” as a product line with the new movie, was that an easy decision? What point in the production of the movie did DC Direct start their process to develop product?
Georg: As soon as the movie became official we started talking about the product possibilities. After reading the first script our excitement grew and the product line started to take shape. We actually started developing the action figures from the original costume designs, and kept going right up through casting and filming. Being able to work with such great partners as Zack and Debbie Synder, and producer Wes Coller made our jobs much easier, as they seemed as jazzed as we were for the line.
AFI: Georg, at Toy Fair you talked a bit about your visit to the set of the Watchmen, can you talk about that experience?
George: It literally blew me away. Being on that huge set in Vancouver brought it all together for me. Being able to see the prop shop, sets and actors in costume (during production) was a first for me on a DC movie property. The commitment to the material was evident all around, and being able to spend some time with Zack, Debbie and Wes face to face really made a difference. The Comedian Gun prop was conceived right there as we kick around ideas and that time shaped everything we did. I could go on for days…
AFI: Tim, can you talk about the process of converting the sculpts for the movie action figures into the bust line?
Tim: Not really. It’s top secret. If I told you, Georg would come after both of us.
AFI: Did you choose the poses of the action figures or did that from production photos?
Tim: The film’s producers chose for the most part the poses for us. They knew their interpretation of these characters much better than we could have and it only made sense to follow their direction. I think everyone who worked on these characters, regardless of them being action figures, busts, or 1/6 scale, did a remarkable job. As I’ve often said, DC Direct has some of the strongest talent working in the industry today.
Georg: The majority of our product is geared toward comic shops and specialty stores, but Watchmen, like our DC Unlimited line, was made available to the wider mass market. The fact that Toy R’Us picked these up speaks more to the power and influence of the property and film then anything else. (But having some highly detailed and accurate figures, certainly helped) We have produced several variants, and I believe they are going to be carrying the “police blotter” Unmasked Rorschach.
AFI: Were there any products or ideas that didn’t make the final cut for your line?
Georg: There are always more ideas then we can reasonable produce. The one that came the furthest was the Nite Owl “In Gratitude” statue prop replica. We were able to get a casting from the movie production, and made some samples but then shelved it for the moment as we felt we had covered things pretty well with our other offerings.
AFI: If the movie product does well is there any chance you would revisit the comic art based product?
Georg: Right now we do not plan to go back to the comic versions for product.
AFI: If the movie product does well is there a chance we would see additional MinuteMen product/figures?
Georg: It is always a possibility. The original Comedian costume is something that I think would make a great figure, as would many of the others from that group. (Don’t get me started on the classic villains)
Georg: Being able to walk Dave around the product at San Diego last year was a real treat for me. He was really excited to see it all come together. He actually wants me to make a version of the Owl Ship that he can hang over his drawing board, I gotta remember too do that.
None of this would have been possible with out the help from the filmmakers and a cast of really talented sculptors. Tim Bruckner, Karen Palinko, Jack Mathews and James Shoop (just to name a few) each really pulled out all the stops on this line, and we couldn’t have done it without them.
Thank you to Georg and Tim and the crew at DC Direct for taking time out to answer our questions.
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