Watching the Watchmen

by Matt Tuck

Watchmen-1-200x300 Watching the WatchmenThe Watchmen have been getting a sizable push in 2018, and that’s made their debut issue a hot commodity. With the HBO television show on the horizon, now is when you’ll want to get that number one if you hope to turn a profit when it debuts.

In 1986, along with Frank Miller’s the Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore revolutionized the comics industry with the grittiest of gritty superhero dramas, Watchmen #1. These two comics changed the way mainstream audiences viewed the medium.

Watchmen was particularly bloody with adult themes and complex storytelling with two stories within the main story; not only did we get the Watchmen narrative, but Moore enclosed excerpts from the fictional autobiography of the original Nite Owl as well as the seafaring horror tale, The Black Freighter, both of which are allegories that, in their own ways, reflect Watchmen’s harsh criticism of mankind’s savage nature.

As amazing as the original Watchmen story was, it was cursed with a movie that was mediocre at best. Personally, I thought Zack Snyder did well at staying true to the story line and themes of the original comic, but the overall production values and many of its casting choices (save for Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian, who was perfect) kept it from soaring. Remember the creepy Genesis video for “Land of Confusion?” The Richard Nixon makeup felt like a puppet from that, which isn’t a compliment.

That 2009 movie just about killed the market for Watchmen #1, and it’s only now recovered. Back in 2007 and 2008, collectors became rabid over the first appearance of the group. A graded 9.6, which has traditionally been the top seller among Watchmen #1 issues, rode the wave of anticipation after the news broke of a Watchmen feature film being in the works. In 2006, it sold only eight times for no higher than $70, but in 2007, it jumped to 42 sales, routinely going for over $100; one even sold for as much as $186.

A year later, the total sales for a 9.6 boomed, reaching 138 with a high of $175. Then came the March 2009 movie premiere, and collectors have backed off ever since. In April of ’09, prices dropped to round $40-$50, and by the end of the year, that same 9.6 plummeted to the $20-$30 range.

For six years, Watchmen #1 stayed on the outskirts of the market. Still a classic comic, for sure, but marred by a poor adaptation that left a bad taste in fans’ mouths. In 2015, the issue began showing signs of life as copies were getting back toward their old highs, but the overall sales didn’t pick up steam until last year when DC announced that the Watchmen would be joining the regular DC universe and HBO was working on a new show.

So far in 2018, Watchmen #1 set a new record-high sale of a 9.6 when another sold for $299 just last week on August 17. Of course, that is a bit of an outlier, but it’s still averaging $158 over the past 90 days.

With HBO’s track record for successful dramas and the popularity of DC’s Doomsday Clock which is introducing the Watchmen to the rest of the DC elite, it’s no wonder that the first appearance is booming once again. It will be worth your time to pay attention to this issue as Doomsday Clock wraps up and HBO sets for a premiere.

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