❉ The full skinny on a comprehensive timeline of the entire Watchmen universe.
‘Watchmen’: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ gloriously multi-layered superhero series to end all superhero series. It’s a bit good. You know, in the same way that nuclear war is a bit explodey.
If you’re unfamiliar with the original work (really?), then this review probably isn’t the best place to start. Let’s just say that it involves an alternate historical timeline, multiple narrators, thorny moral conundrums, and the firm, proud buttocks of a blue-skinned physicist.
An endlessly re-readable exploration of the superhero genre, a text with this much substance has, inevitably, elicited slavish devotion over its thirty year history. ‘Watching Time’ Author Rich Handley is clearly one of those fans, releasing this mighty timeline tome in this year, the landmark title’s pearl anniversary.
Chronologically compiling not only the apocalyptic events of the original miniseries, but subsequent spin-offs too, Handley has painstakingly drawn out and presented as document the entire franchise’s timeline.
(Yes, we know that Moore would wince his beard and bollocks off at the use of the word “franchise”, but that’s what it is now. With a movie adaptation, video games, prequels, and recent reintroduction into rebooted canonicity, DC aren’t letting go of their lucrative Lycra-attired team anytime soon.)
Handley’s book is testament to that exploitation of Moore and Gibbons’ original IP. Exhaustively researched and compiled, its sheer volume of content is as awe-inspiring as it is bewildering. (Might just be me, but just thinking about the work that’s gone into this gives me palpitations.) Handley pours his joy for and respect of all strands of the source material, affording each equal importance and weight, no matter how seemingly asinine (music videos? Really?).
Departmentalising every entry separately with a shorthand key (handily reprinted at the bottom of the page), it satisfies both types of reader – the studious scholars cross-referencing all timelines with fervent vigour, and the more casual on-the-bog reader, just dipping in for a mooch about as they shift their bowels.
OK, so casual’s probably too strong a word for anyone seriously interested in picking up this book. Oceans’ level deep in research and lore, those who’ve only seen the movies a couple of times on DVD probably need not apply.
Annotated to sometimes comically serious levels (there’s a particularly pedantic one about postcards that drew much mirth), it can, on occasion, be too serious for its own good. Yes, there’s no doubting the near biblical majesty of ‘Watchmen’, but its darkly humorous, satirical heart beats harder than a list of chronologically arranged events can really convey. Also, due to the text-heavy nature of the material, a little more illustrative flair wouldn’t have gone amiss.
But hell, these are minor Rorschach blots on an otherwise pristine print. Handley’s book is an astonishing achievement, a full-bodied accompaniment to a dizzyingly complex series. There’s real nitpicker’s joy to be had ploughing through the entries and comparing alternate timelines. Before you know it, you’ll be sinking hours into pondering why Eddie Blake’s death occurs on two separate dates (for what it’s worth, I’m guessing it was probably just a mistake).
With an additional “crimeline” (a chronology of the Heroes and Villains) and cover gallery, it’s a fantastic appendix to the – yes – franchise of Moore & Gibbons’ finest. You’ll need to be fairly familiar with the universe to fully appreciate it, but it’s stacked with enough tasty tidbits to sate the appetite of the original-only purists. Dense with fact and exceptionally detailed continuity of a stunning legacy, this is mightily impressive work.
A fan’s fan kind of book, ‘Watching Time’ will truly sort the mice from the Minutemen.
❉ Rich Handley’s ‘Watching Time: The Unauthorized Watchmen Chronology’ is available from Hasslein Books, RRP $24.99
❉ Freelancer and copywriter Miles Hamer writes mainly about pop culture nonsense that normal people grow out of during their teens. He writes regularly for Comic Heroes, Horrorville, SFX/Total Film specials, and has contributed mostly to sites that no longer exist, which is merely coincidental. Probably.