Today, Shelby and special guest writer Elliott Serrano are discussing Comedian 1, originally released June 20th, 2012. Comedian is part of DC’s Before Watchmen prequel series. Click here for complete Before Watchmen coverage (including release dates).
Shelby: So far, I have been very impressed with Before Watchmen. Minute Men was a great intro to the series, setting us up for a closer look at the slightly old-timey adventures of Alan Moore’s original crime-fighting team. Silk Spectre took things a step further by expanding on a couple of under-represented characters, adding depth to the original story. Comedian, though, takes things further yet: Brian Azzarello counters accepted truths in Moore’s story of Eddie Blake, the Comedian. And you know what? It works really well.
It all starts with Eddie Blake playing a game of football with the Kennedys at the White House. That’s right, turns out Eddie and JFK are totally besties. In the original story, Moore implied that Eddie was the assassin who killed Kennedy. The movie spelled it out plain in the opening credits, with Eddie on that grassy knoll. Not according to Azzarello: he’s got Eddie and the president rough-housing on the White House lawn and betting on football games. Who does Jackie O turn to when she needs someone to take out one “drug-addled peroxide whore”? Eddie, of course.
Eddie’s about to hop on a plane to hang out with his presidential pal, when he gets an order from the Director; he’s got to be part of a drug bust. Moloch has apparently upped the ante from prostitution to narcotics, and The Comedian needs to take care of it. He bursts into a warehouse, guns literally a-blazin’, and makes a grand mess of things. Finally, Eddie finds Moloch upstairs, weeping in front of a television. Not only are there no drugs, the President has just been assassinated. Eddie places his hand on Moloch’s shoulder as they watch the news.
There are a lot of really smart things happening in this issue. The biggest one, of course, is that Eddie didn’t kill JFK; moreover, that Eddie was intentionally kept away from the president’s side by another force in the government. Azzarello has done something really clever here. He’s taken something that has been accepted as cannon in Moore’s story and reversed it in a way that reinforces what we know about that character. The Comedian’s shtick is that he knows exactly how terrible the world is. Instead of being beaten down by it, he laughs at the joke of it and joins in. Azzarello’s twist perfectly fits in with Eddie’s view of the world as one sick joke. Even better, Azzarello references that cannon by turning it into a joke about Eddie tackling the President during their game of football.
The other really smart thing Azzarello has done in this book is establish the relationship between Eddie and Moloch. Remember in Watchmen, when Eddie figured out the plan to kill millions of people in order to prevent mutual nuclear destruction? It was too terrible a secret for him to make a joke of, and he turned to Moloch for solace. It always seemed a weird choice, but not anymore. By having these two men, enemies in every other encounter, share this terrible moment, Azzarello builds a rapport between the two that explains why a tearful Eddie would break into Moloch’s house when he couldn’t deal with the world. The last time Eddie had to face something he couldn’t laugh away, Moloch was the one he faced it with. J.G. Jones helps tie it all together with his panel of Eddie standing at the window drinking Moloch’s booze, just like he would again so many years later.
I didn’t expect any issues of Before Watchmen to change an aspect of the original. I especially did not expect such a change to be so well-executed. This issue was smart and impactful and so very good. I am very curious to see where Azzarello and Jones will take this title next. With that, I’d like to introduce our next special guest writer Elliott Serrano, writer for Chicago’s RedEye and Dynamite Entertainment’s Army of Darkness. Elliott, I believe this is your first look at DC’s Before Watchmen, what did you think of it?
Elliott: I really enjoyed the book, Shelby! I’ll admit that the jury is still out for me on this new plot twist with The Comedian and President Kennedy – how many secret operatives end up being friends with the President? – but it does establish an interesting paradigm for the character. The banter in the beginning of the issue showed Azzarello’s knack for writing dialogue that moves the story forward without seeming too expository. The characters felt real and the motivations all made sense. But what I really wanted to focus on was the artwork.
After the fiasco that was Final Crisis (you know, the series that he had to quit mid-run?) J.G. Jones appears to have really hit his stride and brought some of his best work to this mini-series. Jones has to walk a fine line of re-creating the likeness of Eddie Blake and helping him blend in with the likes of JFK, Bobby and Jackie Kennedy. It’s a tough balance to strike when you have to place a fictional character next to a historic figure and make it appear natural. Also, being a period piece, Jones has some serious heavy lifting to do with capturing the flavor of the times. The clothing, the cars, the buildings, were all rendered expertly. I especially liked the images of Walter Cronkite on the television, announcing the tragic events that took place in Dallas in 1963. As someone who’s seen the original footage, Jones captured it effectively.
It’s become quite evident why Didio decided to put together an all-star crews to create these minis. They have a real challenge ahead of them to craft stories that are as interesting and visually compelling as the original Watchmen series. These are stories that will need to be able to stand the test of time. So far, it looks like they’re succeeding.
After the issues he had on the aforementioned Final Crisis, I’m hoping that J.G. Jones can keep the look of this particular series consistent for the inevitable trade paperback collection. In all honesty, I don’t understand why they didn’t just release these stories as OGNs as opposed to floppies. But once they are collected, they are sure to look good on my shelf next to my copy of Watchmen.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?
I love that Eddie is friends with JFK. It’s not all that surprising really, since he eventually goes on to be a war hero in ‘Nam and meets(potentially befriends?) Tricky Dick as well. The Blake/Kennedy friendship is a little odd though, since Blake was a delinquent, and the Kennedy’s are pretty much the single most powerful family in America. I would assume that his identity as the Comedian played a role in this, except that not everyone knows Blake and Comedian are one in the same, does that mean at this point in time the government knows?
They must: they told Eddie they needed him for a job when he (not Comedian) was on his way to meet up with the Kennedys.
I love the idea that, had Eddie been there, Kennedy would not have been shot. The “what-if” potential of Eddie stopping the assassination is delicious to consider. Azzarello is teasing us with an alternate (alternate) history that would have probably prevented the events in Watchmen from happening. Mind = broken.
Moore goes through some pretty spectacular lengths to make his readers hate Eddie Blake. Maybe we can sympathize with him, but the psychological rub that Watchmen establishes is the idea that a hero can be a bad guy. (read: not a “Bad Guy,” but a bad guy.) Honestly, this is the first time I’ve ever felt any affinity for the character as a human and not as a study of a patriotic, homicidal maniac. He’s not just an element of chaos in everyone else’ life – he’s a dude passions and loyalties AND FRIENDS. That’s a pretty cool move.
But if I may object, Patrick; I am not sure I share your view of The Comedian in Watchmen. The Comedian is patriotic in only a very qualified sense; he realizes the “dark side” of patriotism, it’s repressed ugly side, in addition to embracing it. This is the “joke”, is it not? His critique of society is rooted in it’s pretensions of fairness and justice, pretensions which are oftentimes sustained by the opposite. Even his critique of his fellow Watchmen references the same “joke”; they claim that their only goal is truth and justice blah blah, but in fact they just want to dress up in leather because it turns them on and other various things. Even his horrific rape of Sally is (in his eyes) “justified” on these grounds.
He is definitely an asshole though, a lower-case bad guy as you say. But the reason isn’t because he is “wrong” in his apprehension of societies hypocrisies and failings, but in the sense that he is *too personally devoted* to this realization. His fidelity to “the joke” causes him to run rough-shod over other people and ruin their lives.
Making him seem “human” would seem to me to be an error, like people want to pretend his issue is merely psychological, i.e. “He once had friends and love and nice things, but society wore him down!”, rather then a deep philosophical obsession.
But I haven’t read any of the non-Moore Watchmen stuff yet, so I may be talking out of my ass here to a certain extent.
I don’t see why a component of a character can’t be both psychological and philosophical. There’s nothing in any Watchmen material (up to this point, I guess) that suggests that there was a time before he was a cantankerous parody of justice, just as I don’t think this issue suggests that JKF’s assassination made him that way. It’s not a cause-and-effect thing, is what I’m saying. We’re not seeing Bruce’s parents gunned down in an alley here. It’s merely another component of who the dude is: a lateral story rather than a linear one.
There’s obviously a very social aspect of this character: he joins teams, armies, agencies. And that’s something that sort of seems at odds with the way he’s characterized in the original Watchmen. If anything, The Comedian series seems to be addressing that component of Eddie Blake. In the basest sense, he forms friendships with his co-workers than mean something to him – even when he doesn’t give a shit about their ideals.
Like everything else I’ve read of Before Watchmen, this sorta has to be experienced before you can determine the value in it. Even at my most apologetic, I would hem and haw about the necessity of these series. And I guess the jury is still out on necessity – but it is sort of exciting that three issues in, it’s not an obvious failure. Watchmen said a lot, but these other creators also have things to say. I’d love to have your continued insight on these characters as we move forward.
I think this does do a bit more “who I am and how I came to be” than you’re giving it credit for. The Eddie Blake we know from Watchmen is an incredibly cynical motherfucker, but even he balked at the notion of “killing millions to save billions.” Here, we see him balk at the notion of killing the President. He obviously got over the latter, because he’s an expert rationalizer. He could make sense of a world where a charming young president can be gunned down, but he couldn’t make sense of a world where millions of people die to perpetuate a lie, even if that lie saved the world.
I suspect that his rationalizations may largely be based on understanding society to be a whole lot grimmer than what we like to believe. That was the joke, but he always felt like he was in on it. The thought that there could be a bigger lie, a lie that out-bluffs society, a joke that he wasn’t in on, was too much for him.
My point is, as cynical as Eddie was, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen him knocked on his ass by just how dark the world really is. We know he recovers from this one, and we know he doesn’t from the other. JFK’s assassination was a shock to the nation, but not nearly as shocking as an accidental alien invasion, or the revelation that IT WAS ALL A LIE.
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